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Knowing when you need a break

I have previously written about how to avoid burning out, and how to cope with tiredness and feeling overwhelmed, so this blog is will try to help you identify when YOU need to take a break, so as to avoid the aforementioned. Also, my previous blogs relating to this topic were written primarily for university students. In this blog, I would like to take the opportunity to focus on everyone working from home or studying remotely, so for professionals using their home office and for students studying remotely.


Burning out, feeling overwhelmed and fatigued can be avoided, but you need to know when your body and mind requires a break from the task at hand. In order to know when you need to take a break, you simply need to understand your body, and what it needs, and therefore knowing when you have deprived it of something. It also comes down to balance, balancing your work life and personal life, balancing deadlines and sleep. Definitely easier said than done!


So, when do I know I need a break? The first noticeable behaviour that indicates I need to take a break is when I become too easily distracted or side-tracked and therefore my focus wains. For example, when I am reading for research or for subject preparation, I will take a break when I am no longer consciously absorbing the information, where I am seeing words, but not noticing their meaning or grasping an understanding of the content. Having your mind wander as you read prevents the ability to properly absorb the information, so pushing through will probably prove wasteful. Now this type of 'sign' can happen on a regular or daily basis. It will probably be due to the fact I have been sitting and reading for a relatively extended period of time. So, I simply put the book, journal or textbook down, and go for a walk, get some fresh air or a snack.


If you are working from home or studying remotely, you will be exposing yourself to increased 'screen time' which can be just as draining, if not more so, as attending lectures or working on-sight. My biggest tip for everyone, is to take regular breaks, so your eyes can have a break as well. I know that for myself, prolonged screen-time can eventually hurt, or create headaches, so I am actively reminding myself to walk away from the computer every hour or so.


The second noticeable behaviour that will indicate I need to take a break, is where I feel mentally drained and exhausted. This can happen to most of us, especially after a very long week, or a stressful period, at work or during your studies. It's important that when you feel like this, you take some time to let your mind and body rest, rather than pushing yourself (as it will likely result in you burning out, or feeling even more fatigued). Oh, and by the way, it is completely normal to have periods where you feel like this! This 'time out' will probably be for a longer period of time than that mentioned above, you might need to take a morning off or reserve an afternoon to relax. I know when working full-time, this may prove to be difficult, however, weekends are perfect for relaxation, and it is important for your overall wellbeing that work and study is kept to minimum, so you can allow for your body to unwind.


Whether you are a 'night owl' or an 'early bird', regardless of your schedule and personal commitments, you need to know when to take a break so avoid burning out and mental exhaustion!


Identifier #1 - loss of concentration - walk away from your workspace, make yourself a coffee, get some fresh air. Aim for a minimum of 10minutes where you don't think about the task list, and you focus on breathing, and enjoying the moment.


Identifier #2 - restlessness - walk away from your workspace, do some stretches, go for a walk and breathing exercises. Make a cup of tea. Stop for at least 10-20minutes.


Identifier #3 - sore eyes - close your computer down, avoid reading or television. Lie down for a little while and breathe. At least 30minutes time out.


Identifier #4 - lack of motivation - take a 30 minute break, refer to your goals or set some goals, plan the next few hours of work/study, and eat a nutritious meal - once goals have been met, reward yourself.


Identifier #5 - feeling drained and mentally exhausted - probably due to prolonged 'overworking' and a tough few days, reserve a morning or afternoon so you can do something for yourself, reward yourself and enjoy guilt-free timeout.


Identifier #6 - heightened sense of stress/anxiety - remove yourself from the stressor or situation, take a 20 minute break, breathe, and plan your time (write it down), reduce your expectations, and you will more often than not, realise that it is all achievable. Breathing is so important, and just get through each task one by one - at the end of the day reward yourself.


Taking regular breaks, whether it be 5minutes or an hour can improve your motivation and general wellbeing, often resulting in more effective study and increased productivity. By rule of thumb, I take a break every 45minutes to an hour, sometimes just even standing up to stretch my legs will suffice. I am often surprised how much I can achieve in a day when I incorporate small moments of time out.


For more information on how to avoid burning out or maintaining motivation, please check out my other blogs. 🎓

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