Remember to Catch Your Breath
Do you ever have those days where you wake up and immediately 100 tasks you need to accomplish cross your mind?
The days or weeks where getting things done feels like fighting a hydra? With every chore or assignment you manage to complete, another one suddenly pops up to take its place?
Sometimes it can feel like you're spinning in circles as the to-do list seems to get longer and longer but it feels like you aren't making any progress. Even when you push yourself to work through meals or give up necessary hours of sleep to "get ahead", it still doesn't seem like enough. You cancel plans or put the things you enjoy doing to the side as you tell yourself to just check off one more item on your list before you can relax.
The issue? There will always be one more thing.
Sometimes the 'one more thing' will be daily tasks, like cooking, cleaning, even brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Others are less ritual things, like completing a work or school project before a deadline, packing before a big trip, or getting your place ready for guests.
It can be easy to look at this combination of daily chores and bigger tasks and get sucked into thinking you won't get everything done. Lord knows I've definitely had my share of breakdowns due to feeling overwhelmed by a class, work or life in general.
It was in those moments that I realized I needed to prioritize what I had to get done. Along with that, I had to work in ways that I could rest and take breaths so my mental and physical self could recover from being focused on work. Instead of planning to work ahead on an assignment that wasn't due right away, I took my dog for a walk or made plans to meet up with a friend. I cancelled the self-ordered all-nighter and got some much needed sleep instead.
I didn't get everything done. I allowed myself to end a day without checking off every little thing on my list. And guess what happened?
The sky didn't fall. I wasn't fired from my job or kicked out of my class or publicly disgraced by society or whatever my irrational fear was about "slacking off".
In fact, I actually found that not forcing myself to get everything done made me more productive. When I took breaks, I found myself ready to focus in on work or deep cleaning my apartment (a weekly endeavor thanks to Poe's shedding). I stopped feeling so burnt-out and stressed, even though I was technically "getting less done."
But in a way, I was actually getting more done.
I was getting everything in on time just like before. But I was also cooking and exercising more, along with getting a healthy amount of sleep. I could see friends outside of a work or class assignment and not feel like I was wasting "time I could spend being productive". In short, I was fulfilling my deadlines while also being able to actually live life.
And it's because of forcing myself to step back, reprioritize and take a breath that I avoided burn out.
I heard once that a healthy athlete will spend almost every day working out and exercising, but they don't work out the same exact muscles every day. They change up their routine, have rest days and do plenty of stretching that doesn't technically build strength. However, it is because they allow their bodies to rest in between intense workouts that they grow so strong. If they decided to keep pushing and pushing the same muscles nonstop, they could get seriously injured and have health problems.
Doesn't it make sense that our minds are the same way? That we can work as hard as we want to but if we don't let ourselves take a breath, enjoy this one life we have, and give ourselves the grace and rest we need, then we'll burn out?
I'm not saying completely slack off and let responsibilities drop to the ground. It's okay to enjoy working hard and it's okay to push yourself.
But you have to have balance. You have to let yourself take a breath and rest.
"One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labour and striving after wind."- Ecclesiastes 4:6