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How To Take Mental Health Breaks to Combat Burnout

It’s not uncommon for people to feel stress periodically. However, being stressed constantly, continually piling on work, and putting excessive pressure on yourself can cause you to experience burnout.
If you’re experiencing burnout, you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed. It can also negatively affect your mental and physical health. Taking mental health breaks can help you combat the symptoms of burnout and help you start feeling more like yourself again.

What is Burnout?

Burnout isn’t a medical diagnosis, but that doesn’t make it any less real or significant. If left unaddressed, it can make it incredibly difficult for a person to function in their daily life.
The first mention of the term was in the 1970s. In the book Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement, author Herbert Freudenberger defined it essentially as the loss of all motivation and incentive. In other words, a person becomes so stressed and overwhelmed that they no longer have the desire or motivation to do anything. It’s the reaction to prolonged stress that leads to exhaustion (mental and physical) and cynicism. It can also make it difficult for a person to perform their job at their best (if at all). ‌

What Causes Burnout?

One of the most common causes of burnout is stress from work. People who take care of others may also begin to feel what’s known as caretaker burnout. In essence, you’re so overwhelmed by the stresses of your job or caring for another person that it starts to affect your mental, and even physical, health.
These stresses are often only a part of the equation. Your lifestyle and certain personality traits, such as perfectionism, can also contribute. You may start to feel hopeless, start hating your job, or feel less capable.
Today, there’s also a pandemic burnout. That’s the feeling of exhaustion with the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on our daily lives. From countless changes at work (or even job loss) to the inability to see friends and family to fears of getting sick, the pandemic has really taken a toll on many peoples’ mental health.

Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

You might not know you’re experiencing burnout. The symptoms are often mistaken for another condition, or just being tired. Below is a list of common symptoms of burnout. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms below for a prolonged period of time, it may be time to talk to a therapist.
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Increasing cynicism
  • You feel hopeless, helpless, and defeated
  • Reduced productivity
  • Detachment
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Isolating or withdrawing from others
  • Increased procrastination
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Digestive upset
  • Changes in appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Becoming easily irritated
  • Turning to unhealthy habits to cope (drinking, smoking, food, etc.)
Many of the symptoms of burnout are similar to those of anxiety and depression. In fact, individuals dealing with burnout are at an increased risk of becoming depressed.
While burnout can really take a toll on your mental and physical health, a mental health break can help you combat the symptoms and help you start feeling better.

What’s a Mental Health Break?

When you’re feeling physically ill, you may take a sick day so that you can focus on feeling better. A mental health break is similar, except that you’re taking a break from work or your role as a caretaker to focus solely on you.
It’s a few minutes, a whole day, or an entire week away from your regular responsibilities. While what you do during a mental health break is unique to you, the goal is to rest and recharge your mind so that you can get back to your daily life refreshed. ‌

The Benefits of A Mental Health Break

While it might seem counterintuitive to take time away from your responsibilities, taking a mental health break can actually provide some essential benefits, such as:
  • Increasing your productivity
  • Improving decision-making and creative skills
  • Improving your physical health
  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Helping with PTSD
Some people turn to alcohol, food, drugs, or other mechanisms to cope with their symptoms of burnout. In turn, they may feel as though they can’t function without them. Taking a mental health break may help the process of combating these dependencies and addictions.

How to Take Mental Health Breaks

There’s no right or wrong way to take a mental health break. What you do, and how long you need to do it, depends on you. Here are a few things you can do:
  • Reach out to loved ones. Sometimes, speaking with a partner, close friend, or loved one can help alleviate the burden on your mind. You can meet up for coffee or dinner and have a good conversation with one another.
  • Exercise. Physical exercise, such as going for a walk, hitting the weights at the gym, or taking a yoga class, can do wonders for your physical and mental health. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that can increase feelings of pleasure and reduce pain.
  • Spend time in nature. Fresh air is another great way to improve your overall mental health. Turn your phone off and go for a walk in the woods or go for a hike. Or, if you’re a water person, a trip to a nearby lake or ocean may suit you better.
  • Meditate. Meditation can help to calm your mind, allowing you to focus on the moment. Other ways to improve mindfulness (and therefore your mental health) include deep breathing exercises and journaling.
  • Take a vacation. If you need more time away, take a trip. Go somewhere you’ve never been and immerse yourself in your surroundings. Visit a new city, head to a cabin in the mountains, or rent a beach house. No matter where you go, your focus should be on relaxing and self-care.
When you focus on your mental health, burnout symptoms can subside. You’ll feel more refreshed and better equipped to manage your daily tasks again.

Take Mental Health Breaks and Feel Like You Again

Burnout can happen to anyone. It may sneak up on you at first, but it can quickly overwhelm you. Suddenly, your productivity suffers, you can’t focus on anything, and you’re starting to feel anxious or depressed. A mental health break, however, can help you get back on track. By taking some time to focus on you, you can combat the symptoms of burnout, improving your overall mental and physical health.
If you suspect you’re feeling burnout and the severe effects it can have on your mental health, reach out to Core Recovery to discuss our Intensive Outpatient Program. A qualified caregiver will walk you through your treatment options for coping with your stressors and getting back to enjoying life.

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