Regardless of your life roles, it is easy to get overwhelmed, overworked, and exhausted. We think thoughts like:
- “I have to finish this right now.”
- “I can’t let them down.”
- “People depend on me.”
- “I can’t fail.”
- “No one else can do this except me.”
- “So-and-so needs me.”
We probably wouldn’t say it out loud, but beneath all of our unspoken thoughts is a need to be needed. When we feel needed and important, we internalize those feelings and interpret them as value–“Someone needs me; therefore I am valuable.” The problem is that we unconsciously adhere to the inverse of the statement–“If no one needs me, I am not valuable; if I am not valuable, I have failed.”
Our self-worth is wrapped up in our personal definition of productivity.
And so we…
- Work when we’re supposed to be on vacation.
- Check email while in bed before we turn off the light.
- Accept a phone call from work while at our child’s sporting event.
- Stay an hour late to get more done.
- Go to the office early to get a head start.
- Blur our own boundaries to appease others.
We are not made to work 24/7.
The last three weeks of 2021, Alan wrote about the changes in the world of work. One point he made regarded the 40-hour work week and how it is not based on maximum productivity. While I have not done any research on correlations between hours worked and productivity, I do know that when we do not stick to our own boundaries and overstep them in order to please others, burnout is right around the corner.
It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to avoid feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and exhausted is to set boundaries and stick to them. Here are some ideas:
- I will not be at the office before 8:30AM.
- No work on the weekends. Ever.
- Once I leave work, I will not answer my phone or check my work email.
- I will work five hours of overtime per month and only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
- On Sundays, I take a three-hour nap.
- Every Friday night is uninterrupted family night.
- I will play D&D once a month for four hours.
A Quick Personal Story
My last two years of high school, all four years of undergraduate school, and two of my three years of graduate school, I spent time around Christmas sick. Just completely exhausted. I’d given up sleep, personal time, rest, exercise, and reading for enjoyment, one of my favorite pastimes. December knocks me on my behind. When I do not take care of myself and work myself into exhaustion, my body eventually says, “Yep. You’re done.”
If we do not choose rest on our own, our bodies and/or our minds will do it for us.
What to do?
- Set boundaries and stick to them. For more information on boundaries, I recommend this book and this book. (This will not be easy.)
- Rest, or your body and your mind will force you to.
- Remember: You are valuable not because of what you accomplish. You are valuable because you are valuable.
- Put on your own oxygen mask before you help others with theirs.