“Quiet the voice that tells you to do more and be more, and trust that in this moment it is enough who you are, where you are and what you are doing. You will get to where you need to be in your own time. Until then, breathe. Breathe and be patient with yourself and your process. You are doing your best to manage and survive in your struggles and that is all you can ask of yourself. It’s enough. You are enough. “~ Daniell Koepke
A few years ago a colleague of mine died of overwork.
In the days leading up to the event, everything was normal. Everyone was working and doing things. Things were hectic, but with sixty to eighty hours a week there was nothing out of the ordinary.
Then one day she said that she wasn’t feeling well. She disappeared from her desk and checked into a hospital. A few days later she died.
Some time later, the hospital determined the cause of death. She had heart problems caused by working long hours. She was in her late twenties.
When people heard about this, there were widespread feelings of loss and sadness. But there was also another feeling: shock. Death from overwork?
It’s one of the things you hear about on the news or somewhere far away. But hearing firsthand from someone you knew? It hit home.
Then I had to think: did I work too many hours? What if I tried too hard and didn’t notice? What if the things I thought were normal weren’t normal at all?
When you are surrounded by people with high demands, you get certain ideas about how things “should” be. But after the incident, I saw the work in a different light.
Like so many others, I used to think that drawing long hours was a point of pride. People would brag about how much they worked in a given week. Feeling exhausted, drained, and stressed was part of the routine.
That is, until something drastic happens to destroy that belief.
Lately I’ve been practicing more and more self-care. I’ve started to appreciate the importance of stopping every now and then and enjoying the scenery instead of always rushing to the next point.
If you are exhausted from constantly pushing yourself, then perhaps these lessons I learned can be valuable to you too.
1. Schedule regular “me” time.
Someone I know has a no work policy on weekends. That means no emails, no work on projects, no meetings until Monday. To emphasize how much he believes in these policies, he expects the same from his employees.
When I heard this, I was skeptical. How could anyone get things done if they just went offline? I always equated longer working hours with better results.
Yet he said that since devoting himself to the weekends he has been happier, more productive, and more energetic overall. He also has more time to spend with family and pursue his own hobbies.
So I decided to give it a try. I planned for myself in good time. That meant I could go for a walk or see a show or whatever as long as I wasn’t working.
If I put aside rest periods, I would have to work during the scheduled working hours. I admit it took me a while to get used to it. But at some point I felt more focused when I was working and more peaceful when I was resting.
Now you may not be able to take the whole weekend off or choose your work schedule. Still, you can take your time. Try to invest an hour in any given day to do whatever you want.
You will be surprised how refreshed you feel afterwards.
2. “No” may be the best answer.
How do you react when someone asks you to do them a favor? Dive in ready to help? Or do you take a step back and think about what to do?
Whenever someone asked me for help, I felt obliged to help. If I didn’t give the person some time, I would feel guilty and think I was a bad person. Even if the person didn’t expect my help at all, I would still feel like I should have done something somehow.
But I started to realize that it is okay to say “no”. I can’t agree to every single request or help everyone who asks for it. I have a limited amount of time and energy, so I have to decide how to spend it.
Of course, we all have obligations that we must fulfill, even if we don’t feel like doing them. Certain people in our lives depend on us. For example, I need to answer an email from a customer, or you need to pick up your child after school.
At the same time, you don’t have to carry the world on your shoulders. Declining an invitation or request doesn’t make you a bad person. It just means that you spend your time doing the things that matter most.
3. You deserve a break.
The longest time I hesitated to go on vacation because I wasn’t working. And when I wasn’t working, I wasn’t making any progress. I felt the need to just keep going.
However, by now I have found that these dormant periods can be periods of immense growth. When I move away from my normal routine, I have the opportunity to try and explore new things. It allows me to see new ideas that I can incorporate into my work and my life.
For example, traveling has shown me that there is more than one way to live and be happy. While many spend their lives running to the next big thing, many more choose to make the most of what is around them.
It can be addicting to get yourself ragged, I know. Your heart beats faster, you feel the thrill of a rush, and your brain feels like it is bursting with all of your ideas and plans. You keep walking, walking, walking without stopping.
But chasing after this feeling is also bad for your health in the long run.
If your head hurts or you feel tired, take a break. You’re not lazy to need a break. This is how your body is telling you that it has been running at full speed for far too long.
Listen to your body.
Stopping work is not a waste of time.
I’ve tried to balance that desire to keep moving forward while I’ve stopped taking in all the good things around me. It’s not always easy, but I have made it my goal to devote time to myself regularly.
I hope you achieved things that you worked on. But I also hope that you will take care of yourself and take a moment to appreciate all that you have already accomplished.
If you stop and look around, your surroundings will become clearer.
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