Work is a part of life - we all have to do it to pay our bills and set ourselves up for the future. But, it doesn’t always work out the way we planned. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, unable to focus, or just aren’t happy, it may be time to take a break from work.
As scary as it sounds, there are ways to make it a little easier on yourself mentally and financially. Here’s what you should know.
Signs you’re experiencing work burnout and need to take a break from work
It happens to the best of us. No matter how much you love your job, work burnout happens. Whether you feel overworked, don’t like your job, or you’re being taken advantage of, it’s important to recognize the signs of burnout so you take a break from work when it’s needed.
You’re in a bad mood every day before and after work
If you wake up dreading the day ahead of you and then come home and take out your bad day on everyone else, you may be burned out.
Not that everyone loves every minute of their job, but you shouldn’t dread it before you’re even there or take it home with you every day.
You never feel caught up
Do you feel like the pile on your desk continually gets bigger? Does it feel like you’re climbing Mount Everest but just keep standing still? This could be a sign of burnout. You may not have the energy to do the tasks required of you, so you keep getting behind.
You can’t stay focused on your tasks
If you find yourself wishing you were doing anything but the tasks you’re supposed to do, it’s hard to focus. The longer you daydream or distract yourself with something else, the more the work piles up and the more behind you get.
You've stopped helping others
If you used to be the one that would walk around the office and ask others how you could help them, but you don’t have the energy anymore, you may be burnt out.
Whether you feel overworked, can’t handle the stress, or just lost the passion for your job, helping others may feel like more of a chore than a way to help others.
You stopped doing things you love
If you’re so tired when you get home from work that you stopped doing the things you love to do in your free time, it may be time to take a break from work.
Self-care is one of the most important ways to stay healthy, and if you can’t make time to do it, everything else in your life will fall apart.
You’re always tired
If you don’t have energy for anything anymore, your job could be draining you. When you constantly push yourself and don’t take care of your body’s needs, you’ll feel tired. You may even feel like you’re sleeping more, but if it’s not quality sleep, you aren’t giving your body the rest it needs.
If any of these signs sound like what you’re going through, it may be time to take a break from work. Before you do, though, know the pros and cons of taking time off.
Pros and cons when you take a break from work
There are some seriously good and bad things about taking a break from work. Knowing both sides of the problem can help you determine how to solve it.
Pros of taking a break from work
You’ll have time to refocus
If you’re taking a break from work because you got too overwhelmed, the time off gives you room to breathe. You can refocus your efforts on taking care of yourself and figure out what you want if you wish to start a new career, create your own business, or be a stay-at-home parent.
You’ll have time to learn new skills
If you’ve decided your previous career isn’t working for you, taking a break from work frees up your time. You can go back to school, handle online training or seminars to get the training needed to try a new career path.
You’ll have more time for family
If your family life suffered while you were working, use the time off to reconnect. Use the time to be together, do fun things (even if they’re free), and just have fun. Life is short. Use the time to regroup and get your family life back on track.
Cons of taking a break from work
You won’t have an income
Unless you’ve saved up for this time off, it can hurt you financially. Before you take a break from work, make sure you have a large enough savings account or other highly liquid investments to carry you through this break.
You may lose your confidence
At first, a break may feel great, but after a while, it may make you feel less than. You may feel like you’ve failed at your job, and now you’ve failed your family. Even if you didn’t love your job, it likely played a role in your self-worth.
It may be hard to get another job when your break is over
When you decide you’re ready to head back into the working world, it may be hard to explain why you took time off unless it was to be a stay-at-home parent or go back to school.
Employers look for steady employment, and significant gaps in employment are often red flags, so make sure you have a good explanation.
Ways you can take a break from work
If you’ve decided you need a break from work, here are five ways you can do it.
1. Take a vacation
Taking a vacation clears your mind and helps you refocus. Often it’s also paid time off at work, which is a great way to take a break.
You don’t have to worry about missing out on income, and the time away may be just what you needed. If you have a few weeks of vacation time stored up, consider taking it all at once to give yourself a well deserved break you need.
Take a staycation
Even if you don’t travel, you can still take your vacation time at work. No rule states you must travel somewhere.
Whether you stay home and just chill or you act like a tourist in your hometown, a staycation gives you time away from the office and allows you to refocus. Make sure you’re good to yourself if you choose a staycation. Include plenty of self-care and some fun too.
Use your sick days
If you’ve had enough but aren’t sure you’re ready to leave your job, consider using a day or two of your sick time. You’ll get paid for your time off while you have time to take care of yourself and figure out your next steps.
Take a stress break
If you don’t have vacation time, consider asking for a stress break. The Family Medical Leave Act allows most employees to take unpaid time off work.
While you won’t get paid, if you need the time to take care of yourself, regroup, and think about your next steps, ask your employer about it - you should be able to take up to 12 weeks off unpaid. But if you have any sick days left, consider asking if you can use those up before taking FMLA.
Quit your job
If your job is ruining your mental health, physical health, and family life, you may be better off leaving the job and figuring out your next steps in the meantime.
If you’re so stressed at work that you can’t think straight even when you come home, it’s impossible to plan your next steps, and quitting may be just what you need.
Take a break from work: 6 tips to prepare
Before you take a break from work, consider these tips to prepare financially.
1. Create a budget
If you don’t have a budget yet, create one and see how feasible it is to take a work break. If you won’t be paid, make sure you have the room in your budget to handle the change in income.
Look at your income and spending and figure out where you may need to cut back or make changes so you can leave work.
2. Do you have an emergency fund?
An emergency fund is meant for times like this. If you did it right, you should have 6 - 12 months of expenses in a liquid account. There’s no problem if you have your bills already paid for the next year. You can focus on yourself and know your bills are paid.
3. Save more than an emergency fund
Life is unpredictable, and anything can happen at any moment. Your emergency fund should cover your regular expenses, but what if you have an unplanned emergency? How would you pay for a broken AC or hot water heater?
4. Pretend you only have one income
If you’re a dual household income thinking about going down to one, act like you only have one income. Take your income out of the picture and save it in another account.
This can be the start or addition to your emergency fund while you figure out what you’re going to do. While you do this, make sure you can live off the other spouse’s income without any money coming from you.
5. Don’t use credit cards
Live within your means and don’t use credit cards. If you can’t pay cash for something, you shouldn’t buy it. The interest of credit card debt compounds and this means a growing balance if you don't pay it off in full.
6. Start a side gig
Even though you’re not working your normal job doesn’t mean you can’t make money on the side. Pick up a fun side hustle and bank the money you earn.
You may feel better knowing you’re bringing in some money, even if it doesn’t match your previous income.
You can take a break from work with a good plan
If your job is getting the best of you, it may be time to take a break from work. Before you do, you must think it through, plan financially, and think about your next steps.
Whether you take a temporary break from work or you leave your career altogether, talk it through with your family and make sure you’ve planned well so you can take care of yourself and your finances through it all.