Everyone needs to take a break sometimes and yet many people leave their vacation time unused. Whether you plan a vacation, a staycation, or a playcation, it’s important to take a break from the job, the routine, and the demands of life in order to keep stress levels in check. When you take a break, you’re not shirking responsibility. You’re taking care of yourself so you’ll have the stamina to be your best. By learning how to watch for the signs that you need a break, you’ll be able to schedule some time away that will help you feel more refreshed and restored.
This article explores the importance of taking a break, including what happens when you don’t and some of the signs that you need to unwind. It also covers some of the different ways to take a break, whether it’s just a short break or a longer vacation.
Risks of Not Taking a Break
The body is designed to respond to short bursts of stress. When stress is prolonged and the stress response is triggered repeatedly and regularly—as can happen in a stressful job or a conflict-ridden relationship—the situation turns into one of chronic stress, and real health problems can set in.
At this point, even positive events can feel overwhelming if they take energy to enjoy. You’re not able to respond from a place of strength and wisdom, but rather from a place of anxiety, or you work on auto-pilot.
Signs That You Need to Take a Break
Sometimes, it’s obvious that you need a vacation. In other cases, stress can sneak up on you. You may not necessarily recognize when you’re at risk of being overwhelmed and burned out. Everyone responds to stress in unique ways, which means that the signs of being overwhelmed are also highly individual. However, there are some general warning signs that apply in most cases. If you’re experiencing one or more of the following, start planning some downtime. This might mean a real vacation or even just a weekend staycation to recharge your batteries.
Key signs you need a break include:
- Changes in eating habits
- Cynicism about work
- Difficulty concentrating
- Getting sick more frequently
- Lack of energy
- Lack of motivation
- Low mood
- Feeling unfocused or fuzzy-headed
- Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches
- Poor performance at work
- Sleep disturbances
- Using drugs or alcohol to cope with stress
- Withdrawing from friends, family, or co-workers
In fact, unless you already feel energized, motivated, excited, creative, and fully engaged at work and in your relationships, you’d likely benefit from a vacation, because it’s a good idea to manage stress before it feels overwhelming. Vacations, mental health days, and regular self-care can keep you functioning at your best
How to Take a Break
If you need a break, there are several different options for getting one. You can go for a long and luxurious break, a relaxing and simple one, or something short and sweet. You can even have minutes-long breaks that you take throughout the day to keep productivity higher and to keep from feeling overwhelmed.
A vacation is a real break, in the classic sense of the word, and taking a vacation is more important than many people realize. That’s why many vacation days go unused when they should be enjoyed to the fullest. The key to a restful vacation is to prioritize rest and fun when you go; don’t overbook yourself with tourist activities or bring so much work with you that by the time you return you feel you need a vacation from your vacation.
The staycation is becoming more and more vogue, especially as people have a greater need to take a break, but with fewer means to pull off an exotic trip. The staycation is all about rest and relaxation, and enjoying home sweet home—a place you are often too stressed and busy to really enjoy. The key to a refreshing staycation is the same as the key to a restful vacation, though somewhat trickier to pull off: Don’t overdo it, and don’t let work creep in. That means no cleaning, office work, or dealing with regular responsibilities. You can either turn off the phones, ignore email, and make it a point to both rest and play at home, or go to a nearby hotel to make it easier.
Few people talk about having a playcation, but it’s a great idea: Stay home, but make it fun! The difference between a staycation and a playcation is that staycations tend to focus more on resting and relaxing, while playcations are for—you guessed it—fun! With the hard work and stressful routines that characterize many people’s lifestyles, it’s important to have some fun as a way to recharge your batteries and be sure you’re enjoying life. You can devote several days to taking a playcation, or just be sure you pepper in some fun on a regular basis.
Sometimes you just need to take a break from stress long enough to disrupt the body’s stress response cycle, and then get back into action. If you just need a quick break, take a hike or a bike ride, enjoy a movie, or even have a five-minute meditation session. Spending time outdoors in the fresh air and physical activity can also be great stress relievers. Incorporating these into your short break, such as going for a walk outside around the block, can help you get more bang for your buck from your short break.