I must preface this blog post with: I am not a doctor. This isn’t medical advice. This is simply my sharing personal observations and general wellness advice you can find anywhere on the internet.
I do feel qualified to write this post because I have a human body that has experienced work- and stress-induced physical suffering on and off during my career – as many have. The thing is, we don’t always notice the signals that our bodies give us telling us we’ve reached our max. More often than not, we do notice them, and we simply ignore them.
In the PR industry, we often have to go full throttle. Sometimes the workday requires lots of sitting, staring at a computer screen for hours, the mental pressure of spinning a million plates, constant reactions to requests, all handled nonstop. It’s no surprise these negative influences, sustained for too long, can develop into physical pain and discomfort.
The great news is, your body is probably going to tell you when you’ve hit your limit. Listen to it!
Here are seven ways your body is telling you to take a break:
1. Headache/eye-strain, possibly from staring at a screen or related to any of the below
2. Shallow breathing caused by anxiety or stress
3. Muscle tension/pain, especially in the neck, back, shoulders and hips
4. Hunger pangs (“Did I eat today?”)
5. Dry mouth/thirst (“Have I drunk anything other than coffee today?”)
6. Trouble concentrating, lack of focus on work
7. Yawning, lethargy
In my experience, assuming these signs aren’t related to medical conditions, you can do yourself a big favor by taking a break when they pop up. Depending on what your body’s telling you, you probably need to either move your body, have some food, drink some water and/or clear your head. Basic stuff, I know. But easier said than done when we’re in a tornado of to-dos. (I outlined 13 of my favorites ways to take a break here.)
If maintaining your physical health isn’t motivating enough, there’s something else to consider. According to recent studies (read about one covered by Inc here), people who take frequent breaks get more done with more focus during their work time (recommended in one-hour stints) than those who worked for longer than an hour with no breaks.
In other words: people who take several short breaks throughout the day are more productive than those who don’t take as many. In other other words: Taking breaks during the workday equals better performance.
If you’ve noticed other ways your body has signaled it’s time for you to take a break, please add them in the comments below!