Stress and the importance of taking breaks

First of all, I am really sorry that I was not present the last two weeks, but I really needed the break. I just wanted some distance from all the exhausting work for my studies. I barely passed my exams and just did not have any energy left to be either creative or productive, so I decided to only write again when I was feeling more relaxed and could make a proper blog post and not just something done last minute, because I have to upload something until a deadline. I also decided to keep off my social media to fully enjoy the time that I got to spend with my family and friends. So, here we are, and obviously enough, I am writing about taking breaks.

Having a burnout

It seems like the most logical thing in the world that we need to take breaks in order to be able to work many years until we retire. However, there still are many people who work until their body and mind break down. If we don’t stop working once in a while or take off some pressure and get away from the stress, we lose all energy. We burn out. I think everyone would agree that it is definitely not healthy to suffer from a too large amount of stress, since it does not only affect our mental, but also physical health to an unbelievably high extent. Ongoing stress has severe consequences for our body and mind, so I will list a few syptoms that can indicate a burnout.

Physical symptoms:

  1. Tense shoulders and neck
  2. Insomnia
  3. Weaker immune system
  4. Higher risk of a heart attack
  5. Higher blood pressure
  6. Stomach problems

Psychological symptoms:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Feeling exhausted
  3. Difficulty with concentrating
  4. Having no motivation or drive to do anything
  5. Being increasingly unable to feel/show emotions
  6. Social withdrawal
If we don’t take care of our well-being, there will be a time where we reach our breaking point.

As you can see, many of these symptoms are similar to those of depression. This makes total sense, as a burnout is often defined as a depression that was induced by stress. If you read all these symptoms and discovered some of them to be true for yourself, you should consult a therapist regarding this matter, as a lot more information is needed to really diagnose a burnout. But what if you have not yet reached your breaking point and would like to prevent getting there? The solution, as in most cases, sounds a lot easier than it is: Taking breaks.

Effects of stress on different types of people

People deal differently with stress, there are some who are not at all affected by it, even though they are in quite a critical situation and others panic far too quickly and let everything get to them. I am a person that belongs to the latter group (I assume most of the people reading this do too, but I would be happy to hear about everyone’s stories). Depending on which group you belong to, it is easier or harder to take breaks. I know how hard it can be to just stop working for a while and to take time for yourself. There is always this voice that says you should do something else, something more productive, instead of just resting for a while. Even when you already have done a lot of work there is always something that still needs to be done. I am someone who likes finishing things first and then lay back, but that is not possible from a certain point onwards, because there simply ALWAYS is SOMETHING that needs to be done, so I am now trying to take breaks in a reasonable and appropriate amount, because otherwise I will be burnt out before I even finish my bachelor.

Having too much stress makes us feel overwhelmed and helpless sometimes.

I also feel like we need to understand that being stressed is not something that we have to get through and just get over with. If we are stressed, we often tend to think that there is no other solution and that we can only take a break when everything is over, but that is far from true. We need little stops and relaxing time every day, not just the two-week holiday in summer and winter. However, I will start by pointing out some things about long breaks, before I turn to the smaller ones.

Long breaks

This is what most people wold call holiday. Taking one or more weeks off work in order to relax and recharge. These are the breaks you should take when you just finished something big (e.g. a project). Holidays are really important and if you take them, you should enjoy them to the fullest (which means checking mails or even thinking about your work and what tasks you have to do next, while lying at the beach or hiking in the mountains is not such a good idea). Many people take their work with them when they go on holiday, they stay online in case an emergency happens etc. there always is a reason, but I don’t need to tell you that this really is not healthy. So, maybe the next time don’t take your laptop with you and try to actively the time you spend online.

Travelling and going on holiday will almost certainly reduce stress levels.

Medium breaks

Those are the breaks that are a few hours long and should occur regularly during the week. Many people fill them with social media or watching movies etc. Even though is a fun way to spend your time and relax (I also do it a lot), it would be a lot healthier to go out and do some sports or just engage in some kind of creative hobby you enjoy. Reading also always is an option and serves perfectly well as a method for relaxation. These hours can be used for so many amazing things that it would be a pity, if we just spent all of them in front of a screen. If you currently don’t have these kinds of breaks, make sure that you take them in the future, they are so important and often account for most of our personal growth. This is the time you can use to work on your dreams and goals that are not connected to your work.

Painting, writing and other creative activities can restore a lot of energy.

Short breaks

Even though these short breaks might not relax you as much as longer ones, they are equally important. If you don’t stop working, your concentration and productivity will go downhill very quickly, and you will be even more stressed. It was proven that it is most affective when you take a five-minute break every half an hour. However, if this does not work well for you, try to take a break of 10 to 20 minutes at least every one or two hours. When taking these short breaks, you really need to be careful to not extend them too much, because they can very quickly turn into procrastination. And the longer you wait, the harder it gets to pick up your work again (this especially applies to students and people who don’t have regular working hours).

A ten minute walk in nature can decrease your stress level significantly.

A final note

I have talked to my boyfriend about stress a lot and at some stage he pointed out, how many people seem to view it as an accomplishment to be constantly stressed. I was taken aback for a moment, because I realised that he might be right. I hear people talking about being stressed all the time. Constantly. (Obviously it is complaints most of the time). But sometimes it seems as if they are trying to say: “Look, I am stressed, I have to do so much, it means that I am important.” Some people apparently take pride in being busy constantly and what it might indicate to others. I guess I am not entirely innocent myself regarding this matter and really was shocked when actually thinking about it, so I would like to encourage everyone to also give it a thought and talk about it to others. If we take pride in being stressed and being busy and don’t put an end to it or act on our complaints that we utter all the time, it is no wonder that we end up being depressed and drained of all energy. I think we should talk less about stress and more about taking breaks.

14 thoughts on “Stress and the importance of taking breaks

  1. Hiya,
    Really important post for the modern age. A time where productivity and perceived productivity & stress are all blurred. When resilience can so easily give way to tolerance and then burnout.

    Self- care is, as you say, so important is the form of taking breaks, even if they are merely a grounding breath. Knowing that it’s ok and vital to have a break is part of the issue- so a very timely, and much needed post!
    Many thanks,
    Peace and love,
    Spence.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for commenting. I do think it is an important issue that we need to consider more often and society (meaning all of us) needs to work on.

      Like

  2. Great post, Nadine! I always like it when you have a new post. I read somewhere that most of us are living by the hormones of stress all the time; concerns over getting everywhere on time, traffic, school and job performance, relationships, our own well being, etc.

    Really thought the last bit was very revealing. I totally agree that there are positive connotations made with being busy.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Roger

    Like

    1. Thank you so much. It really is good to hear that my posts are appreciated so much. I have experienced this phenomenon a lot (stress hormones), so I am working on it now as best as I can.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I needed this! I just don’t know when to stop and take a break. It’s important for me to acknowledge the business now before I get burned out… or worse. Thank you for this gracious reminder to keep a leveled head!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I have the same problem, so I thought it would be a good Idea to remind myself of it by writing this post. I am happy that I could help you a little 🙂

      Like

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