Signs you need a break

Author: Nina Kajee

Struggling to decide which important decision to make first?


Forbes says there are several culprits to blame for mental fatigue. Daily, we have a plethora of decisions to make and so many options available to us that we’re exhausted from it. If we’re perfectionists or even just conscientious, we might agonise over the minute details of decisions so much that we may even suffer from ‘decision-paralysis’. 


We overcommit at work and in our personal lives, spreading ourselves too thin. Lack of sleep influences our capacity to deal with all of this and can leave our general health compromised.

Our direct environment also plays a role in our mental states. Even something as trivial as clutter on an overburdened desk can cause our cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone and isn’t healthy for us at chronically elevated levels, according to WebMD. 


If these things are left unchecked, we can easily find ourselves on our way to ‘burnout’.


Burnout – watch out!


The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) says that the term burnout was first coined in the 1970s by American psychologist, Herbert Freudenberger. The World Health Organization cites it as an “occupational phenomenon”. Most cases of burnout happen when people are overworked, but strain outside of work hours can also be the cause.


Symptoms vary, but according to Healthline, there are 12 clear signs that you might suffer from burnout or are heading in that direction. 


  1. Your mind is always switched on and restless

  2. You’re not sleeping well

  3. Your eating pattern has changed

  4. You’re lacking in motivation

  5. You’re frequently ill

  6. You have no energy

  7. You find it difficult to concentrate

  8. You’ve become indifferent to your life

  9. You’ve become cynical or negative and snap easily

  10. You’re withdrawing socially 

  11. You are dependent on alcohol or drugs to relax

  12. Your favourite things have become less enjoyable


What can you do?


Polly Campbell, author of How to Live an Awesome Life and Imperfect Spirituality, suggests four ways in which you can fight back mental fatigue and avoid the slippery slope towards burnout. 


Look to the green. Many people are inclined to think that they need to power through to get their tasks done and that taking breaks would impede their productivity; Ms Campbell writes for Psychology Today. But the opposite is true: frequent mental breaks improve productivity. Looking out your window at a tree or plant for as little as 40 seconds instead of furiously ploughing through your work will do the trick. This was confirmed by a study from the University of Melbourne in 2015.


Minimise decision-fatigue. Where you can, buy groceries in bulk. Have a schedule for your meals or plan your daily outfits in advance These are all ways in which you can help yourself to make fewer decisions on a daily basis, leaving you more room to ponder important decisions and make healthy choices. 


Get moving. The benefits of physical exercise include more energy and boosted creativity, mood, and concentration Campbell further writes in her article 4 Things to Do When Your Brain Is Tired. 


Take proper breaks. A weekend away, the odd day off, or the mandatory 30 minutes at lunch time can all help you switch your mind off for long enough to recharge your mental batteries. The key is to really use this time not to think about tasks or issues that are nagging you.


Heed the warning signs and curb the snowball effect of mental fatigue before it gets out of hand. Consult with a mental health professional if you are concerned about your mental health. 




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