Here’s my reality bite: 5 a.m., I stir from my bed after an all-nighter. No problem. Despite still lugging with a haze, I brush those thoughts of napping; sleep is for the weak. I glance at my watch. Another text from my boss tells me I’ve got a rush paper at 8.
I can’t slow down. Straight to the shower, then grabbing my blazer, I prep up. On my way out, I scarf whatever’s on the fridge – a leftover sandwich or yesternight’s pizza – straight to my stomach.
It’s been a long time since I ate a proper breakfast – you know, serene weekends where you just sit down and enjoy quiet. Glugging my morning caffeine, I head off, putting my morning playlist on to pump it up, but for some reason, all that could be pumped up was actually deflated.
We live in a culture of hustle – there are too many dreams to chase, too many opportunities to take. Every day, there’s this fear: if I blink, I’d miss it; the eyebags around my eyes can attest. There’s something dignifying about achieving a milestone from hard labour; it makes me know I’m capable, worthy and needed.
But the body and mind don’t always agree.
I’m pretty sure it’s not just me; I could hear this conversation by the table next to me, or my friends, or somebody who knows somebody has overworked and “broke the back” far too well. It’s when your head starts pressing the breaks after three days of not getting enough sleep. It’s your body slowly breaking down after weeks, even months, of the submitting to the same stressful routine. You get many feelings: sad, angry, tired, overwhelmed, hurt when you just stare blankly at your computer or start to nod off at the middle of the day. And even if you try to squeeze your brain, it’s completely bereft of creative juice, rendering you unproductive, even leading you to occasional breakdowns and low self-esteem.
There’s joy in working until you run out of it. Yes, it does run out, eventually, after putting your body in varying levels of stress. A day will come, and your favourite pumped-up playlist won’t work for you anymore. Coffee? Just bitter-tasting water. All because you’ve been in that state for too long: the state of hustling, the state of chasing dreams, the state of never listening to what your body actually needs.
So, when is the time to stop? Maybe now.
Are you doing your work? It’s OK to go the extra mile, but if you’re crossing kilometers, maybe it’s time to put your hand down and say no. Be clear with your job expectations.
Talk to your supervisor. Maybe you need more help from the team. Or maybe you need words of affirmation. Isolation is a factor for burnout, but a supportive workplace keeps your enthusiasm on fire.
Reserve hours for rest and play. If you’re working 9-5, keep your task within those lines. Enjoy the rest of the day doing other things like meditating, exercising or learning new hobbies. Then, slip into a full 7-hour Zzz for brighter, better mornings.
When was the last time you had a holiday? Come on, you deserve it. After months of working hard, you need to get your peace of mind back. Plus, traveling helps you learn new things while refreshing your mind and body. Ask for a leave.