It’s no secret that most people hesitate to take time off to address their mental health needs and concerns. Whether you’re sick, overworked, or overwhelmed, sometimes you just need to take a mental break. With statistics from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) reporting that one in every five adults has a diagnosable mental health disorder, prioritizing your mental health is more important than ever. Taking time out for yourself on a regular basis can help you focus on relieving stress, relaxing, having fun, and preventing burnout or a mental breakdown.
What Is a Mental Break?
A mental break is any activity that allows you to take a step back, unwind, and recharge your mind. A mental breakdown is conceivable when stress levels reach an all-time high and proper coping mechanisms are not in place. Hence, taking mental breaks, even for a few minutes a day, allows you to become more aware of how you’re feeling, what you need, what’s going on with your body, and much more.
Signs of Burnout
The signs and symptoms of burnout can vary from person to person, but if you notice any of the following signs, it may be time to take a mental break:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Getting sick more frequently
- Lack of motivation
- Poor performance at work
- Poor sleep
- Changes in eating habits
- Using alcohol or drugs to cope with stress
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches
It’s important to remember that many of these symptoms could also be signs of a mental breakdown or an underlying mental health condition. Consult with a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis.
How to Prepare Yourself Before Taking a Mental Break
The best way to take a mental break is to plan ahead of time, rearrange your workload, or find a replacement for the day. However, if you wake up in the morning and feel that you can’t face the day, now may be a good time to take that break. How frequently you should take mental breaks, how long they should last, and what activities you should engage in will differ from person to person. To make the most of your mental health break, you must clearly understand what you are willing to do and what your limitations are before arranging time off.
What Should You Do During a Mental Break?
Spending a few minutes on something that calms your mind is a great way to take a break and practice self-care when feeling overwhelmed and stressed. It can be as simple as spending time in nature or enjoying a cup of your favorite tea quietly. Other ways to unwind and relax can involve:
- Listen to music – Music is an effective way to reduce stress and gain a sense of comfort. Enjoying good music can elevate your mood, spark happiness, and even help you sleep better at night.
- Journaling – Writing has been known to provide mental clarity, relieve stress, help you organize your thoughts, and much more.
- Meditate – Deep breathing and meditation are known to decrease anxiety, strengthen attention span and increase energy levels, to name a few.
- Turn off your electronics – Staying glued to your phone and other devices can be emotionally draining and interfere with your time off. A digital detox during your mental break will allow you to concentrate without distraction.
- Read a book – Reading improves brain connectivity, prevents cognitive decline, and helps improve your quality of sleep while helping you reduce stress.
- Catch up with a friend – Everyday social interaction is a necessity. It is a terrific approach to developing and maintaining relationships and helps you develop a strong support system.
- Doodle – can be advantageous both cognitively and emotionally. Doodling has also been shown to boost brain creativity and reduce stress.
The options are endless, but engaging in things that give you a sense of joy and comfort is key.
Benefits of Taking a Mental Break
Taking mental breaks yields many psychological and physical health benefits. It’s important to take a break from time to time in order to:
- Clear your mind
- Reduce stress
- Improve your sleep quality
- Promote relaxation
- Process your emotions
- Have fun and do things you enjoy
The objective of a mental break is to prevent oneself from reaching the point of burnout. Therefore, taking even a few minutes per day to relax can significantly minimize the risk of a mental breakdown. However, it’s important to talk to your GP or a mental health professional if symptoms of stress persist even after a mental break.
Risks of Not Taking a Break
The human body is geared to respond to short bursts of stress. When stress is persistent, and the stress response is activated repeatedly and consistently, the situation becomes one of chronic stress, and serious health problems can develop. Chronic stress may increase your susceptibility to illnesses ranging from frequent headaches and digestive troubles to high blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. When your “allostatic load” or the total amount of stress reaches a specific threshold, your persistent state of responsiveness might cause stress to snowball. Even positive experiences that require effort to enjoy can feel overwhelming at this stage. Taking a break allows your brain and body to reset, replenish, and manage daily stresses.
Is Taking a Mental Break Important?
It is easy to convince yourself that you do not have time for breaks when you are working on a difficult project or when you feel like you have too much to do. However, research indicates that micro-breaks, midday breaks, and prolonged breaks all have a favorable effect on well-being and productivity.
Studies have shown that taking short breaks during the workday can minimize or prevent stress, increase performance and productivity throughout the day, and decrease the need for a lengthy recovery period at the end of the day. In addition, a relaxing break can help reset your mood and improve your health and wellbeing.
Suppose your stress levels do not decrease after taking mental breaks. In that case, you should visit a healthcare professional since stress or mental break symptoms may indicate undiagnosed mental health disorders or medical complications.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with a mental health disorder, substance use disorder, or co-occurring disorder, Futures Recovery Healthcare is here for you.
Futures Recovery Healthcare has a dedicated mental health treatment program and substance abuse treatment program that can assist you in receiving the care you need. Patients can receive comprehensive care for depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, bipolar disorders, and other related conditions through our multidisciplinary team approach, including clinical, psychiatric, medication, medical, and wellness interventions and support. To learn more about our mental health care services, contact us online or call 866-804-2098.