This Is How You’re Overworking Yourself, and Why It Needs to Stop

Your calendar is full of ink, and you have no time to breathe until Thursday... after lunch … two weeks from now. This is when you know that maybe — just maybe — you’re doing a little too much. You're realizing you may just be spreading yourself a bit thin.

It’s so easy to let school work, extra curricular activities, job shifts and plans with the besties sweep you away. This is especially the case in the middle of the semester, when it seems everyone — and their mothers — is throwing commitments at you. There’s only half a semester left; there are midterms to cram for, shifts to pick up at work, steam to let off at the gym, and hangouts with friends to squeeze in. Our generation is all about productivity; being stagnant just feels wrong. The demands and expectations we overwork ourselves to fulfill can get overwhelming, physically and mentally. But even then, it’s hard to recognize when we’re going too hard and when — or even, how — to slow it down.

The hardest part is coming to terms with the fact that you can’t do everything all the time; to do so is more detrimental than anything else. We've gotten into a habit of doing something all the time. It could be keeping up grades, participating in clubs and/or sports, working really hard at work, or working on keeping up with your social life. We do so in the hopes of securing a promising future for ourselves; but we need to realize that the future we're working to build won’t be as promising when we're confronted by the strains these constant undertakings are bound to bring.

Always being on the move means always working the mind and the body; it’s not going to be long 'til it takes a toll on you. Have you been noticing how you’re always tired? Have you been more irritated or upset than usual? Stress become a constant in your lifestyle, and it overwhelms and hinders the productivity that you're trying so hard to maintain. You find your sleep hours dwindling, your mental and physical health declining.You can grow forgetful and anxious; you may even begin to think negatively. Waking up most mornings brings dread, as everything you’re doing feels like a chore — something you have to do. Isn't the point doing what you want to be doing? At this point, all the days are blurring together. You’re doing so much — and mostly not enjoying it — that the days just go by one by one. Another day of getting out of bed, rushing to work, then rolling back in bed. And as someone who finds it almost impossible to say no to friends, family and employers, I always find myself rushing through life — from one location to another, from one duty to another. I’m making memories and having some good times; but I’m more bogged down by responsibilities than I am nourished by enjoyment.

You can't be putting yourself second if you want to be as productive and content as you’re working so hard to be. You’ve got to balance your time between responsibilities and self-care. Balance, balance, balance. I know there are not enough hours in the day to feel like we can do both, but it’s imperative. It’s ok to do a whole day of nothing; but if it feels like you can’t afford that right now, start smaller. Go to that coffee shop you’ve been walking past every morning but could never swing the time to check it out. Try their signature and sit down. Look out the window, people-watch. Whatever you do, use that time for yourself. Don’t let the work you’re gonna tackle later distract you from where you are right now and what's happening around you. Don’t always look ahead. It’s ok to devote time to the things we've labeled as “distractions.” Ironically, it's the overworking we subject ourselves to that's been proven to do the real distracting. Read just a few pages of that book you’ve been eyeing on your shelf and eat a robust meal — do so without doing something else at the same time. Put all your focus on how delicious that food is. Also, try just lying down and listening; listen to your favorite music, or just listen to the surrounding noise.

There are a number of things you can slip into your daily schedule to replenish your mind and body. You can’t be as productive as you strive to be if you don’t make healthful choices. Here’s to improving the quality of your personal experiences, as well as your service to others and to the world. And, you will do so with your undivided attention. Give yourself time to breathe; you deserve it.

“Be a better you, for you.” - Inara Bueno