Frustrated woman looking down at her messy desk

How to know when you need a break

AnxietySelf Responsibility

Our brains evolved to conserve energy. This was helpful back when food and resources were hard to come by. But now that we have all the resources we need – and more – sometimes our brains tell us we need a break, even when we don’t. Because we have ample access to food, water, warmth. And we often live sedentary lives that don’t require long spurts of energy to gather food our outrun a tiger.

But our brain still operates on its old operating system. Constantly reminding us that we need a break, even when we could technically keep going.

So how do we know when we really need a break?

It comes down to separating out your physical signs of exhaustion from your emotional ones.

Often times we confuse the two. And say we need a break, when really what we need is to clean up how we are thinking and feeling.

So ask yourself, am I physically exhausted to the point where I can’t keep going?

Which can mean a couple key things – it’s time for food, water, or sleep. If your having trouble identifying whether this is you, start by asking,

  • Am I hungry?
  • Am I thirsty?
  • Did I get enough sleep?
  • When was the last time I took a break – one in which I got out of my head and into my body (checking Facebook doesn’t count because it doesn’t give you a true escape from your mind)

How you answer these questions can help you determine if a break is truly needed.

The human body can only go for so long in one sprint, so building in breaks to your day can help you to maximize your productivity and limit the energy drainage. You may otherwise feel. Of course, this is all dependent on the types of breaks you take.

You want to aim for breaks that refresh – like a walk around the block, a couple minutes of deep breathing, a light stretch.

Now emotional exhaustion often looks quite different.

Because it’s feeling based rather than a physical sensation. It shows up as a sense of dread, overwhelm, and emotional depletion. It’s less physical drainage, and instead stems from thought like,

  • I am overwhelmed
  • I have too much on my plate
  • I can’t handle this
  • There is more to get done than is physically possible – and I am behind
  • I have been working so hard

To help you uncover whether you need s break because physically you’re at a breaking point vs. you just need to better manage your mind, ask yourself, Why do I think I need a break?

Hear what your brain responds – and write it down.  Then, don’t just automatically believe what it says. Pause, and ask yourself if it is really true. Or if your brain is just reverting back to its caveman ways and just needs you to redirect it and better manage your mind.

This will tell you whether to rest up, or to manage your mind and keep going.