Taking time to recharge

Lately, I’ve found myself dealing with multiple of life’s challenges – starting a new job, dealing with grief, and thinking about how my current life aligns with my aspirations. Although it feels overwhelming and scary, it dawned on me that these struggles are entirely normal for someone in their 20s (or any age for that matter).

I attempted to “power through”, which meant I showed up at work, only to leave in tears after a mere five minutes. It was a breaking point and a signal that my mind needed a pause. During this chaos, I found solace in seeking support, acknowledging that taking time off is not a sign of weakness but a necessity for self-care.

Reflecting on my experiences, I recognised the importance of understanding when our brains need a break. The neuroscience behind this phenomenon is fascinating. When we push ourselves too hard without giving our brains the chance to recharge, cognitive fatigue sets in. The prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision-making and complex thinking, becomes strained, affecting our ability to concentrate and perform at our best (Arnsten, 2009).

In my journey, I’ve learned that it’s okay to hit the pause button. Instead of persisting when the mental fog rolls in, taking a step back allows the brain to recover and rejuvenate. The science supports this; downtime is not a hindrance but an essential part of the learning process. Applying this understanding was pivotal for success in my undergraduate dissertations.

When I ended up taking the day off of work, I couldn’t hold back the tears, and the weight of responsibilities seemed impassable. I decided the best thing at that moment was to get into bed and watch Netflix all day—a form of mental escapism that allowed me to disconnect from stressors. It wasn’t a wasted day; it was a strategic move to protect my mental well-being. It meant I could continue the next day in a much more robust position.

Recharging is about recognising when to step back, whether it’s for a few hours, a day, or a weekend. The crucial aspect is acknowledging the signs of burnout and giving our minds the break they deserve.

Research shows that breaks improve focus, creativity, and problem-solving skills (Albulescu et al, 2022; England, 2023; Barker, 2021). Our brains are not designed to work incessantly; they thrive on a balance of work and rest (Zohar, 1997).

So, the next time your brain sends distress signals, don’t ignore them. Embrace the art of recharging, for it’s in these moments of pause that we find the strength to continue our academic journeys with resilience and clarity.


Albulescu, P., Macsinga, I., Rusu, A., Sulea, C., Bodnaru, A., & Tulbure, B. T. (2022). “Give me a break!” A systematic review and meta-analysis on the efficacy of micro-breaks for increasing well-being and performance. PLOS ONE17(8), e0272460. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0272460

Arnsten, A. F. T. (2009). Stress signalling pathways that impair prefrontal cortex structure and function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience10(6), 410–422. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn2648

Barker, M. (2021). Brain Breaks Improve Student Behavior and Focus. Master’s Theses & Capstone Projects. https://nwcommons.nwciowa.edu/education_masters/273/

Danah Zohar. (1997). Rewiring the corporate brain : using the new science to rethink how we structure and lead organizations. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

England, S. (2023). The Power of Pause: An Investigation of the Role of Breaks in Creative Performance. Shareok.org. https://shareok.org/handle/11244/337487