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Why It’s Fine To Switch Off From Work (Sometimes)

I don’t like the term ‘workaholic’. It places too much emphasis on the work itself, as if the act of working is what the person is ‘addicted’ to. Maybe some people are, however from my personal experience (as well as what some others have shared with me) the ‘addiction’ is to the completing of tasks, ticking of boxes, freeing up of time in the future. Working itself, even if you love what you do, provides little satisfaction; making dents in your to-do list, by comparison, is a wonderful feeling.

None of this is to say the problem isn’t real, because it is. You free up time for the future by getting work done now, yet that ‘future’ never comes because as soon as you’re able to relax you start some other task. May as well get it done now, right? In the age of self-care, such an attitude seems self-destructive, however it’s still a prevalent feeling. I’ve often wondered why that is, and I’ve hit upon something approaching an answer – we can’t stop comparing ourselves to others.

You’ve likely heard this many times before, but with social media acting as a constant window into other people’s lives, we’re more aware than ever of what our peers are doing. As you’re scrolling down whichever feed you’re on, it can be difficult to remember that you’re looking at filtered versions of people’s lives, that in reality nobody is studying and having fun 24/7. Things like study blogs can certainly give that impression, however, and drive us to want to match what we think they’re doing. So-and-so is always making notes and already drafting their end-semester essay – why aren’t I?

Such constant pressure to match others can, and frequently does, make it difficult to switch off. This can have quite severe repercussions, particularly if it starts to affect your sleep patterns and social life, not to mention the mental impact a consistent feeling of inadequacy and inferiority can have. The biggest problem with such thoughts, of course, is that they never go away – you’ll never be satisfied however much work you do, how many targets you meet. It just snowballs infinitely.

I should add that I’m no professional on this subject, beyond my own personal experience. I’m not going to offer any miracle cure, or any cure at all, and it would be wrong to promise one. I suppose what I provide here is merely something to relate to, a recognition that such a problem exists, whilst also providing a logical justification for switching off. It may not sound like a lot, but sometimes a simple reminder that you don’t have to live with such an attitude can spark a larger realisation.

Work isn’t everything. Social media isn’t everything. Most importantly, what you see online is not even a true reflection of those people’s lives. They switch off, have downtime, probably even have bad days now and then where they get nothing done. They have hobbies – like writing for a blog, say – beyond their work that let them relax, have fun now and then. All of that is okay, none of it is a waste of time in the end because it contributes to a healthy, balanced state of mind. At the end of the day, working yourself to death won’t stop bad things from happening, in fact it’ll likely just make more bad things happen. Take care of yourself, disengage from your responsibilities for a while – they can wait for you, you don’t have to bend to their will.

Learning to let go was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, and I’m likely still not fully over it. Progress doesn’t come as quickly as we’d like it to with these things. The good news is that I haven’t lost my sense of responsibility – I haven’t gotten ‘lazy’. I’ve just started to appreciate how I’m feeling a lot more, and I’m learning that it’s okay to take it easy if I’m struggling for whatever reason. I can almost guarantee, also, that my work is better as a result of not being so forced. It’s a tough process, but one that will definitely improve your wellbeing for your efforts.

 

English student at King's College London. Equally a reader and a writer, both of fiction and non-fiction. A country mouse thrown into the city, however hoping I can stay in the city for longer than a meal. Into engaging with the world around us, expressing our opinions, and breaking the blindness of commuting. Also a lover of animals.
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