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5 Signs You Need a Pause and What to Do About It

04/23/2014 08:29 am ET | Updated Jun 23, 2014

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Despite my success working in the Internet industry for more than a decade, I felt like a failure at work. I was overworked, stressed about every minor detail and quickly burning out. The more I tried to improve "my performance," the worse I seemed to do. Everyone told me I wasn't doing well in my role, which set off a mental tailspin.

With an eroding confidence, I sure wasn't going to look for a new job, even though I was desperate to find one. I decided the best option was to take a break, or as I like to say, a pause. For how long, remained to be determined. I just knew that I needed a pause to unwind and figure out how I could live a happier life.

What led a professional like me to this breaking point? There were five signs. Unfortunately, I had ignored every one. They whispered day and night. You need a pause.

1. You used to love your job, now you loathe it.
Do you dread waking up and going to work most days? Was this previously enjoyable for you? Most of us spend our majority of time at work, so if you're not happy here, it's a problem you need to address.

2 The boss tells you, "It's not working out."
Worse than dating! Is your manager giving you specific feedback to improve? If the answer is yes, and you've shown no marked improvement, it's time to assess if your role is a good fit. A pause could be just the right next step to figure this out.

3. An intervention separates you from your work or technology
Has a loved one, friend or family member spoken up about your addiction to your work, phone or computer? Are you missing out on important life events because you're too busy working or checking Facebook? It may be time to step away and see if what you're working on is as critical (or valuable) as you think.

4. A major life event or change happens
Divorce. Death. Move. Child? Anything that disrupts your normal routine offers the opportunity to consider the best use of your time.

5. Stress, opportunity and desire knock at your door.

Stress: Are you experiencing sleepless nights, health related issues, or depression? An obvious sign to pause. If anything adversely affects your health, the time is now to address the issue before serious and irreversible conditions arise.

Opportunity: Is there an opportunity you're thinking about, but hesitate to act on like taking a big trip, changing careers or starting a new project? Life really is short. Why live in the future? A pause allows you to live in present time and make better choices.

Desire: Are you asking yourself questions about what to do next, or making a risky change in your life? Taking a pause gives you the space and time to consider carefully the pros and cons of many alternatives to staying stuck in a miserable job.

If even one of these signs shows up in your life, congratulations! You just received one of life's wake up calls to assess your own situation and perhaps course-correct like I did.

What to Do About It:
You don't have to do anything crazy. I'm not saying quit your job or change a thing. In fact, you don't even need to take a day off. Figure out what works best for you based on your own situation. The point is to slow down or just 'be' as a next step. Here's how:

Take a few days, a week or as much time off as you can to focus on what's going on.
You may decide no action is needed, but tuning into what you feel or what you don't want may help you assess and come up with a solution.

A pause doesn't have to be a vacation or a physical change of scenery.
It can be a daily routine that you create and allow yourself to just "be." Try not to overthink anything, and remember you are just there, being. It can be a walk in the park, or any activity out in nature. It can be sitting in front of your fireplace or on your porch without doing anything except sitting. Dedicate time each day to this activity -- even if it's five minutes a day -- and devote time to be with the situation. Leave behind your digital devices for this time, including music, TV or cell phones. Or if you must have it, turn it off to avoid distraction.

Write in a journal five minutes a day.
Writing helps complete and express thoughts. Try writing yourself a letter about the situation. You may be surprised what wise advice arises.

Try any of these ideas out, and leave me a comment about what happened. Have another idea? Write a comment and let others know about that, too.