Some days you don’t know if you’re coming or going. You forget what your co-worker just said and what’s due when. The throbbing headaches are beginning to feel like a drill.

It seems like being a hard worker these days is all about working yourself into an early grave. So, how can you tell when enough is enough? Here are 18 signs you need a break from work. 

1. You’re about to set your computer on fire, literally. In fact, you’re picturing it, right now: You may or may not have snuck a blow torch into work. Don’t start computer fires. Take a break.

2. You’ve turned into the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz.” You can barely move and are in pain. The same position and repetitive motions strained your muscles so much that they feel calcified at this point.Soon, you won’t be able to move at all, and there’s no oil can to save you. The good news: A Swedish massage is a good substitute to loosen you up. You may also consider a standing desk or walking breaks to get your body moving. If your body and brain don’t get enough exercise, you’re no good to anyone.

3. You’re getting repetitive headaches, or another health issue keeps occurring. Your body is literally telling you to stop. Stress influences disease in the body and can promote inflammation and the progression of health issues. See your doctor, but remember that your overall health matters, too. Make time for personal time to keep yourself well.

4. Your resting heart rate is rising. Normally, your heart rate will be pretty consistent within a range of a few beats per minute. Check your rate every morning before you get out of bed. (I use my Fitbit, but there are plenty of other ways.) If you notice your heart rate rising, it’s because you’re stressed and your system is trying to get more oxygen to your brain and body. Take a break and get a little more rest to give your body what it needs.

5. You’ve become a zombie. Well, you’re not eating brains, but your head isn’t in the game. At this point, your responses to co-workers, family and friends are grunts and awkwardly pointing at things. You’re going through the motions, but life just doesn’t have much appeal. It’s the same old thing, day in and day out. It’s time to change your routine.

6. Friends? What friends? It’s OK if your social life sometimes consists of watching episodes of “Friends” instead of actually hanging out with your friends. But if you have no social life, that’s a completely different issue. Humans need to socialize outside of their work environment; socialization is just as important to optimal health as diet and exercise.

Do you really want your tombstone to read: “Bob: He worked. He worked a lot?” No, you don’t. Now, go grab a drink with your friends.

7. When you finally find time for your hobbies, you get nothing done. Perhaps you like to bake, paint or write poetry, but when you get to it … nothing at all happens. There is no passion. There is no motivation or interest.So, what’s going on? Your body, your mind and your heart are tired. Get overwhelmed in one area of your life, and it will leak over into the rest of your life if you don’t handle the situation.

8. You’re eating dinner at the office, consistently. Recall staring at your computer and quickly glancing up at the clock to notice that dinner time was two hours ago? So, you order Chinese food to be delivered to the office. No big deal, right? Think again. Working more than 40 hours a week, with unhealthy eating habits, has been shown to adversely affect your health.

If you have to work late, at least leave the office to sit down and eat a meal. You should have at least 30 stress-free minutes to yourself. And if this is a regular pattern for you, your work-life balance needs to be reconsidered.

9. You hit snooze more than once. If the first thing you do in the morning is fall back asleep again, something’s got to give. If you dread going into work, are rushed and end up late, you need a change. Take a break to consider your options.

10. You’re tossing and turning every night. If you have horrible sleeping patterns, even after trying to adjust to a new work schedule, something else is going on here. You’re overworked, and your body has had enough.

11. You – or your co-workers – are noticing attitude changes. Have you been grumpy for months? If your co-workers are walking on eggshells around you, take a break. The same goes if you’ve been slowly withdrawing from social interaction at work. Likewise, if you’re experiencing a sudden change in attitude for no specific reason, it’s likely the stress and fatigue have triggered physiological responses that alter the chemicals in your brain that regulate emotions.

12. You talk about work outside of work. A lot. Everyone has a right to a good rant. If you subject your family and friends to a daily, long-winded rant, just stop. Stop for them, yes, but especially stop for yourself. Look at what’s not working for you, and make the change.

13. You sigh, or change the subject, when someone asks you, “How’s work?” You hate talking about your job because you hate your job. It’s boring. It’s frustrating. It’s a sign that you need a break.

14. You no longer feel proud of your work. You deserve to be recognized. You deserve to feel proud of your position. Have you been doing this for so long that it’s all the same to you? It’s break time.

15. Your work area is trashed. Or suspiciously clean. Take note if your work area has altered from your usual way of doing things. Both messy and clean work spaces have merits, scientifically speaking. Our work areas often symbolize the spaces in our minds and how we sort information. But if you don’t have time to tidy up, or if you’ve gone from messy to OCD, it’s a sign you need to step away from the desk.

16. Your brain’s foggy, with a small chance of “screw this.” Not only have you lost your motivation, you’ve lost your thoughts. It’s hard to think, period. Co-workers’ words go in one ear and out the other. You don’t know if you’re coming or going. You just know that you’re about done with all of this. Feeling like this is a serious sign that you need a break.

17. You forget to eat lunch. If you’re so busy that you don’t notice your stomach rumbling, or you keep working despite the hunger, your brain isn’t getting the fuel it needs to keep going. Neither is your body. Force yourself to get up and take a lunch break. Even fifteen minutes can give you the boost you need to get through the afternoon.

18. Your weight is fluctuating. Stress takes a major toll on your body, we all know that. But we often fail to notice the signs. If your weight is fluctuating more than one percent day-to-day, or if you’ve lost or gained weight a considerable amount of weight without trying, it’s a sign you need to pay more attention to your intake. Whether you’re stressed and not eating or drinking enough, or you’re over-eating due to stress, it’s time to get it in-check before it takes a significant toll on your body.

Please don’t work yourself into an early grave. Notice when you need to take a break, especially from everything, and do it.

Have you noticed any of these signs in yourself or a co-worker? What are your suggestions for taking a much needed break? Leave a note in the comments!

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

2 Comments on 18 Signs You Need a Break From Work

  1. Leena
    February 24, 2016 at 12:25 am (5 years ago)

    Hi. I agree. In order to live long, one needs to balance life. Time to take a break, take a break. Nobody can help you unless you help yourself. Cheers!!

    • Sarah Landrum
      March 21, 2016 at 12:04 pm (5 years ago)

      I couldn’t agree more! You have to make time to help yourself!


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