Mental Illness and Stress: Four Signs You Need a Break

January 24, 2018 Megan Rahm

Mental illness and stress can cause you a lot of trouble. Stress can cause symptoms of mental illness to break through. Here are four signs you need a break.

Mental illness and stress do not mix well. There have been many times in my recovery when I've needed a break. Whether it was a medical leave from school or a few days off of work, I've always found giving myself a break helpful. I would usually return to work or school a rested, happier, and more productive person. Here are four signs that have shown me that I've needed a break because of mental illness and stress.

When Does Having Mental Illness and Stress Require Time Off?

If You Are More Symptomatic than Usual

Stress with mental illness can increase symptom severity. I can't function when I'm symptomatic. I've had a couple of jobs that required driving, and it's not safe for me to drive when I'm experiencing hallucinations. Not being able to perform my duties at work has definitely been a sign that I needed a break. Stress can exacerbate mental illness symptoms, and a break can help take away some of that stress.

It's important to talk to your doctor if you're more symptomatic than usual (How to Talk to a Doctor About Your Mental Illness). A break can also be helpful if you are getting used to a new medication or dosage.

If You Are Feeling Overwhelmed

Many times when I've taken a break it was because I felt overwhelmed. I have a habit of taking on too much. While I believe it's important to push yourself sometimes, I also think it's important to learn your limits to stay healthy. Taking a break can help you learn your limits as well as give you a chance to reassess your situation and calm your stress and mental illness symptoms. Are there any projects or responsibilities that can be adjusted, reduced, or eliminated?

If You Notice Poor Performance at Work or School

If your performance at work or school is suffering, a break may be needed. I took several breaks from school, and when I returned my grades always improved. It's easier to succeed if you're rested and have a clear head.

If You're Exhausted

If you're feeling exhausted, it's definitely time for a break. Stress can really wear on you, so ask others to help you with your responsibilities if possible. Also, lack of sleep can contribute to your mental illness symptoms, so get some rest.

Ways to Take a Break from Mental Illness and Stress

To take a break from work, you can see if you've accumulated any sick or vacation time. For a longer break, you might want to apply for family medical leave (FMLA). If you live in the US and you've been at your job for at least one year, applying for FMLA can give you up to 12 weeks off. It is unpaid, but it protects your job. You will be able to come back to work and you won't be fired. To take a break from school, you can apply for a medical leave. The disability services office on your campus can assist you with this.

There is no shame in taking a break, and please don't ignore the signs that you need one. A break may feel like a setback, but in my experience, it only propels you forward. Getting the time to rest, decide what's important, and figure out how to work through your situation can greatly improve your life when you experience stress with mental illness.

APA Reference
Rahm, M. (2018, January 24). Mental Illness and Stress: Four Signs You Need a Break, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Megan Rahm

Find Megan on Facebook.

Lilia Robberts
May, 24 2018 at 8:31 am

I have started a new job and have been overly anxious about everything! I don't know if it's situational, or if it is a chemical imbalance. I love how this article multiple times suggests taking a break. I think taking a break is exactly what I need. I also am considering going to a mental health counselor. I believe they can help me diagnosing me and helping me become more stable.

May, 24 2018 at 8:14 pm

Hi Lilia,
I'm happy you are reaching out for help, and hopefully taking a break will help you sort things out. Sometimes it's hard to tell if it's situational or a chemical imbalance, so I think seeing a counselor is a good idea. Good luck with the new job!

Gerty Gift
May, 11 2018 at 8:21 am

I liked what you said about when you're feeling exhausted, you should really take a break. I can honestly say that there are times when everything just gets to me and I just am always sleeping to escape it all. I think that I might need to take a day or two to just recover from all of the stress in my life and maybe it will help. Thank you for your advice.

May, 12 2018 at 8:26 am

Hi Gerty,
Thank you for your comment. Take care of yourself, and I hope the break helps you out. Sometimes we just need to take some time to figure things out and get our energy back.
Take care,

Leave a reply