Have you ever felt more than just physically tired? Have you been mentally exhausted as well—like you just can’t think anymore?

You are not imagining it. Research by cognitive neuroscientist Antonius Wiehler, PhD, and the Paris Brain Institute has shown that prolonged concentration leads to a buildup of the compound glutamate in your brain. High levels of glutamate can be toxic to brain cells, so your brain tries to cut back on activity, and that makes you feel mentally worn out. Pushing on through this exhaustion can negatively impact your decision-making and your ability to think clearly. When you get to this point, it is wise to give your brain a rest. Fascinating, isn’t it, how the brain tries to protect itself? We can all learn a lesson here—and I decided to pay heed.

After working steadily on a project for hours today, I literally felt my brain shut down. I tried to keep going—I just wanted to be done. But I realized that I was doing myself, the project and my brain more harm than good.

So I stopped. I headed to my happy place near the water. Just a brief walk around the harbor near my home watching the boats come and go, seeing the kids riding their tricycles and feeling the sunshine on my face…and I was good to go again. When I returned to the project a bit later, I had renewed energy and a fresh perspective that made the finished product all the better.

So just in case you need to hear this—listen to your brain, and give ­yourself permission to take a break when you really need one.

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