If you’re ambitious, you probably hate taking time off. You have responsibilities that won’t take a vacation, even if you do. Many top performers are passionate about what they do, so passionate that work hardly seems like work. However, humans aren’t designed to work non-stop. We all need an occasional break to recharge. How do you know when it’s time to take a break?
You’re making a lot of mistakes.
Our brains love challenges, but they also need rest to recover from those challenges. When you don’t get enough time to recovery, your thinking starts to suffer. You aren’t quite as focused and your memory isn’t quite as reliable. You may overlook important details or forget about appointments. It’s not that you’re suddenly incompetent or that you just don’t care; you probably just need a break.
You have trouble sleeping.
Feeling perpetually stressed eventually takes a toll on your sleep. You start to have chronically high levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline and you may be trying to fight fatigue with extra caffeine during the day. You may lie awake at night rehashing an old problem or feeling anxious about the next day. These all make sleep difficult. And you might not have been getting enough sleep to begin with if you are in the habit of trading sleep for work.
When your sleep starts to suffer, other aspects of your life suffer too. Your memory and concentration suffer and you make even more mistakes and experience even more anxiety. Being at your best requires adequate restful sleep to recover from the stress of the day.
You’re getting sick.
Another consequence of inadequate sleep and chronically high levels of stress hormones is that you get sick more often. Sleep is when your body devotes most of its efforts to fighting off infections and healing injuries. When you don’t sleep enough because you work too much, that deferred maintenance starts to build up and you are at greater risk of illness.
Also, stress hormones signal your body that you’re in danger and it’s time to fight or fly. There’s no time for fighting infections when a bear is chasing you. You have bigger problems. However, when your body is always full of hormones that suppress your immune system, it’s only a matter of time before you get sidelined with the flu or something worse. Then you’ll be forced to take a vacation and it won’t be fun.
Also, stress and anxiety can cause a number of issues including stomach problems like nausea, cramps, and diarrhea, and physical pain such as joint pain and back pain. Stomach problems are often the first physical symptom of chronic stress. Chronic stress causes inflammation that is often felt in the joints, and tension, which is often felt in the back. Also, studies have shown that psychological stress amplifies feelings of pain. If you constantly have a stomach ache or physical pains with no apparent cause, it’s probably time for a vacation.
Small problems seem big.
Your job is probably mostly about solving problems. You’ve probably solved most of the problems your work is likely to throw at you and a lot of these problems no doubt seem routine. If you suddenly notice that easy problems start to feel hard, it may be time for a break. When we’re fatigued from too much work and too little rest, even minor problems feel overwhelming. It’s like they never stop. If you aren’t getting enough rest, you may not have the mental or emotional resources to deal with relatively easy problems. When you feel like you’re on the verge of a breakdown because you can’t decide what room to reserve for a meeting, you may be due for a vacation.
You’re unusually negative.
Constant stress, too little sleep, and overwhelming problems take their toll on your ability to be optimistic. Negativity can come out in many ways. You might be unusually short-tempered with your colleagues or employees. You might be pessimistic about the outcome of a negotiation. You might be cynical about other people’s motives. Negativity is not only a symptom of stress and fatigue, but it also makes it harder to be effective in your work. It’s an extra headwind you have to overcome just to get through the day.
You feel alienated from your family.
A sure sign that you’re spending too much time at work is that you never see your family or friends. When you do see them, you might be distracted by work problems or irritable, which increases your alienation. Losing that sense of connection is a sign you’re losing the perpetual struggle for work/life balance. As with negativity and poor sleep, social isolation can be a downward spiral. Connecting with friends and family is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Social interaction is pleasant in itself, and knowing you can count on your friends and and family reduces your perceived burden of responsibility.
You’re using drugs or alcohol to cope with stress.
One of the more worrying signs of chronic stress is using drugs or alcohol to cope. You don’t have to be addicted or physically dependent for substance use to be a concern. In fact, the best time to be concerned is long before substance use becomes a problem. Perhaps you’re having a drink or two so you can fall asleep, or taking a Xanax before important meetings. Maybe you occasionally take an adderall to help you work late. These are signs you need to back off and take care of your health. Using substances to cope with work stress is not sustainable and can lead to addiction.
You dread going to work.
Everyone has days they don’t look forward to. Maybe they have to deal with a problem customer or let an employee go. No one looks forward to those days, but if you find yourself waking up and dreading going to work, it’s probably time for a break. It’s extremely unlikely that work you’ve enjoyed for a long time has suddenly become unending drudgery. It’s more likely your perception has changed because of chronic stress, lack of sleep, negativity, and so on. Taking a vacation gives you time to recover and reconnect with your mission.
If you feel burned out and need to get away for a while, The Dawn Medical Rehab and Wellness center can help. We are one of Thailand’s most respected addiction treatment and wellness centers. Relax in beautiful surroundings and enjoy a new cultural perspective. To treat burnout, we offer therapy, exercise, float therapy, and neuro-linguistic programming. To treat issues that sometimes accompany burnout, we use cutting-edge treatment modalities to provide personalized care to treat addiction, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, PTSD, and executive burnout. See our contact page to reach us by phone or email.