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Sometimes feeling great simply means sticking an extra adaptogen or two in our morning smoothie, other times it means pulling back when our job has us feeling fried. Over-achievers, halt the freakout; we’re not trying to change you, just make you feel a little more well. Here’s how…

The truth is we all struggle to sustain work-life balance from time to time, but the ladies behind Career Contessa want us to know that there’s no shame in needing a break  — or in actually taking that time for yourself. Whether you’re an office gal, busy mama or anything in between, read on — in the name of self-care — for three definitive signs that you’re due for a mental health day.

If you had a sprained ankle, you wouldn’t try to run ten miles, right? You’d listen to your body, ice it up and rest to avoid injuring it further. Same goes for our mental health. Sometimes, after a few 12-hour days or an upsetting personal event, our minds are screaming at us to just take a break — before we have a breakdown.

It’s not like you can X-ray your mind, find a sprain and call in sick. But there are signs of burnout that signal it’s time for a day of rest (or a day of Korean spa — whatever you need to recharge).

You’re more irritable than usual

Working with the same people all day every day, some personality conflicts are inevitable. Still, watch out for any sudden changes in mood. Are you snapping at the situations that you’d normally just shrug off? Does every single request from your boss send you spiraling?

Let the unresolved tension simmer and you’ll snap — if not in an actual screaming match, then through the passive-aggressive emails nobody wants to get. Separate yourself for a day to calm down. It will help break the cycle.

Your work is unusually sloppy

You’re rushing to meet a deadline and, inevitably, miss little details — punctuation, calculations, etc. Your boss calls you out and your anxiety ratchets up even more, starting a vicious cycle of stress, underperformance and self-blame.

We’re not perfectly oiled computers so we can’t operate at 100-percent capacity for eight hours per day, five days per week, indefinitely. And at some point, the double and triple checks won’t save you from making uncharacteristic, embarrassing mistakes.

If your stress is hurting your work performance, working more isn’t the solution. Give your mind a break, and it’ll pay off in the form of better attention and creativity all week long.

You’re showing physical signs of stress

Maybe you’ve mysteriously gained weight, maybe your face is breaking out, or you’re barely awake throughout the day, but you still can’t sleep at night.

All of these seemingly unrelated symptoms point to chronic stress. Emotional stress spikes our stress hormones and makes us sick. Brain fog, insomnia, anxiety: They’re as real as an ankle sprain, so treat them as such. The longer you wait to give yourself a break, the worse those symptoms will become.

One Netflix marathon won’t solve your long-term stress, but taking a day to prioritize and create some coping strategies — or do nothing at all — is a great place to start.

Looking for more ways to manage stress? Find our favorite stress management tools here. 

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