We Need to Stop Romanticizing Overexertion

Growing up, I’ve always been the kind of person that loves to do a million things. In Grade 12, I was student body president, part of Model UN, head of prom committee, and had a large group of friends and a very busy school and social life. That’s just a snippet of what my high school life was like; some years were even busier. If I wasn’t studying or doing something for my extracurriculars, I’d be hanging out with friends or at a new restaurant for dinner with family.

I’ve always loved having a lot of things going on. I’m always trying my hand at something new, be it a skill, a job or even just a book. 

You get the gist of what I’m trying to say -I love being busy.

So much so, that if I have one too many quiet nights in, I start to get restless, lethargic, and feel majorly unproductive.

I love bingeing Netflix, taking a long bath, and getting on that self-care grind. Although as much as I enjoy my down-time, my brain has a limit as to how much lounging around it can do.

Ever since starting university, I joined multiple student groups, took on several executive positions, and worked a couple of jobs right off the bat. I loved the thrill of always having something to do and being the person that wore many hats (and had a really long email signature).

But as expected, it caught up with me. I’ve gone through sleepless nights, days of eating only a chocolate bar and having major FOMO from missing hangouts. 

It was different when I lived at home; while I had the same habits, the one thing different was that I had my mum to make sure I ate a hearty meal, and my dad to make sure I was sleeping at a godly hour. Living all alone with no one to make sure I was doing normal things like sleeping and eating, I seemed to stray a little off-track and struggled with doing the smallest things.

After weeks on end of hitting my pillow, hammered and out like a light, I finally had my wake up call (no pun intended). It was a quote I saw on Facebook. 

Original graphic design of quote

Right from the first sentence to the last, it felt like it was made for me. It was then that I realized, I’m clearly not the only person who does this. I realized how damaging it is for so many people to live their lives this way and not think anything was wrong.

Being brilliant, busy, and productive is amazing, but it should never be at the cost of your own peace or mental health. We need to stop normalizing this unhealthy lifestyle, and start instead with ourselves. It’s time to learn to hit the brakes, learn to say no, and learn to just be. It may not be easy, make you feel restless, and bored at the start, but it’ll pay off in the long run, I promise.

Use up your full 20 minutes of your lunch break, take a mental health day, use all your vacation time. Make time for yourself, because if you don’t no one will, and then you’ll be stuck in a never-ending cycle of work and end up exhausted.

Learn to focus and harness your energy on the few things that actually matter to you. Be selective about what you dedicate your time and effort into. Be okay with missing some opportunities if they aren’t of much value to you at your current stage in life.

Michael Gungor put it best, “Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.”

So make sure to get at least seven hours of sleep in a night, eat three hearty meals a day, and see people every once in a while.

Going cold turkey isn’t realistic, I know from experience that you can’t ask someone who does it all to do nothing instead. Start by trying to do one thing for yourself everyday and go from there. Always remember, we can’t burn out before we truly have a chance to shine.