12 Signs You Need to Take a Break ASAP

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Running errands, keeping up with an ever-growing pile of laundry, caring for a small person while juggling work — it can all become a bit much.

By the time you lie down for the night, your head is spinning with an endless to-do list that only keeps growing.

Symptoms of burnout can vary from person to person, but if you notice any of the following signs in yourself, it may be time to take a step back and slow down.

1. You’re restless

One big sign that you may be taking on too much is never feeling well-rested. Maybe you aren’t taking enough breaks at work or frantically hopping from one project to the next without slowing down.

When you finally do attempt to relax, you have a hard time sitting still or quieting your mind. This can make it hard to recharge when you need it most.

2. You’re awake at all hours of the night

Sleep is one of the first things to suffer when you get stressed or overwhelmed. Take notice if you’re staying up extra hours trying to finish a project or begin waking up at odd hours without being able to fall back asleep.

You may also be dealing with insomnia if:

  • you’ve had sleep disturbances at least 3 nights a week for at least 3 months
  • sleep problems are creating major distress or causing problems in your ability to function

3. You’re eating differently

Changes in your eating habits can also be a good indicator of when you need to take a break.

In some cases, you might notice yourself eating less than usual or skipping meals without realizing it. Or you might find that you’re eating more than usual and always on the hunt for a snack, even if you aren’t hungry. Both scenarios can be a sign of stress.

4. You have no motivation

Dragging yourself to your job or losing interest in things you once enjoyed can mean you’ve reached the point of burnout.

Were you once the go-to person for organizing social events at work, but can no longer muster the motivation? High stress levels can turn activities you once enjoyed into monotonous tasks you do out of obligation.

5. You’re sick ALL the time

Can’t knock that one cold? Keep getting knocked out every time a bug goes around the office?

Frequent illness may be a sign that stress is having an impact on your immune system. Too much stress may lower your body’s ability to fight off infection.

6. You feel zapped of energy

Excessive stress can leave you feeling physically and mentally exhausted — even after 9 hours of sleep.

You might find that it’s taking you an extra 10 minutes to get out the door in the morning. Or your usual workout is feeling extra difficult, even though nothing’s changed.

7. You have a hard time concentrating

Are you struggling to follow what’s being said during a meeting? Or do you find yourself rereading the same two lines when you try to unwind with a good book?

No one is immune to mild forgetfulness or off days from time to time. But if you find that your usual tasks are taking longer or feel harder to get through, you may have too much on your plate.

8. You feel indifferent about your life

It’s normal to feel a bit down every once in awhile when it comes to your work and other responsibilities, but you shouldn’t constantly feel demoralized by what you do.

Your daily activities and tasks should give you a sense of satisfaction and achievement after completing them.

Waiting for the time to pass you by or generally feeling bored all the time makes it hard to feel connected and engaged, which can signal an oncoming burnout.

9. You’re getting cynical or negative

Are you snapping at people more often than not? Is everyone getting on your last nerve?

In the beginning, burnout can look like mild tension and irritability, but it can quickly turn into angry outbursts at work or at home. You may not even know what you’re mad about — just that that you’re in a permanent state of cranky.

Paying attention to your frustration can help you determine whether you’re overreacting to minor annoyances.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Have you become increasingly impatient with coworkers lately?
  • Do you have more frequent outbursts after a challenging day?
  • Have you screamed or snapped at an innocent bystander and felt shocked afterward?

10. You’re withdrawn

Find yourself turning down plans to go out, or making up excuses to avoid social plans?

Solo time is important and necessary, but when you’re under a lot of stress, it can isolate you and potentially damage your relationships. Look at how often you avoid going out and seeing people, and whether you used to be a lot more social.

11. You’re self-medicating

Do you fix yourself a quick drink as soon as you walk in the door after work? Or keep marijuana in your back pocket for your commute home?

There’s nothing wrong with doing this from time to time, but make sure you’re not relying on drugs or alcohol as a tool for coping with stress.

Consider seeking help or new relaxation techniques if you notice that:

  • you can’t stay away from a particular substance, even if you want to
  • you find yourself needing more of the substance to achieve the same effects
  • you experience withdrawal symptoms when you go without the substance
  • you spend most of your day looking forward to or thinking about using a substance

12. You aren’t enjoying your favorite things

Losing interest in things you once loved is a telltale sign that something’s not quite right. If going to the movies or dining out with friends was once fulfilling but has started to feel pointless, it’s time to take a step back.

Feeling apathetic about things you once loved can be a sign of burnout, but it can also be a symptom of depression.

The bottom line

Everyone needs a break from time to time, but it can be hard to recognize when it’s time to hit pause.

If you find yourself feeling a bit off or doing things different than you used to, you may need a break from your daily grind. Not sure how to get started? These 10 tips to beat feelings of overwhelm can help.

You may also want to consider reaching out to a therapist for additional support. They can help you identify major sources of stress in your life and help you come up with ways to prioritize your own well-being.

Keep in mind that many of these signs overlap with symptoms of depression. If you find that these feelings persist, even after taking a restful break, it’s worth following up with a mental health professional.

Cindy Lamothe is a freelance journalist based in Guatemala. She writes often about the intersections between health, wellness, and the science of human behavior. She’s written for The Atlantic, New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, Quartz, The Washington Post, and many more. Find her at cindylamothe.com.

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