Let’s Have A Serious Talk About Overworking Yourself

People have a bad habit of over-committing themselves.

Whether it is work, school, volunteer hours, or even helping out friends, our schedules can become overwhelming very fast. This isn’t always a bad thing! Being passionate about a variety of different things is good for personal and professional growth. However, while you’re navigating the world and your many responsibilities, you also have to recognize when enough is enough.

If you’re in high school or college, you’ve probably heard some form of the following conversation:

“Wow, I just had to take a chemistry quiz after only getting 5 hours of sleep because my physics paper was due this morning.”

“You think that’s bad? I had to do a 3-hour lab at 9am after finishing my 15-page English essay due at 8.”

– So many overheard lunch table conversations

Your suffering is not a competition.

Grinding yourself into the dust and neglecting your own physical and emotional needs does not make you a more effective student or employee — and you’ll convince yourself you can keep it up right until the point where you break.

I can’t force anyone to take care of themselves, and I won’t pretend that I know what is good for everyone. All I can do is give you the following points for you to meditate on in regards to your own habits.

Understand Your Limits

This isn’t an easy task, and takes some real thorough introspection. Limits can be physical, mental, or emotional, and when those limits are passed it can make dealing with your responsibilities even harder.

Depriving yourself of sleep because a project needs to get done when you only function well on at least 8 hours makes the next day that much worse. I point out sleep specifically because there’s so much research and information out there on it’s negative effects. However, you probably have other limits too — like how much social interaction you can deal with before getting some alone time, or how long you can spend on the computer before getting a headache. Understanding personal limits will make your life better in the long run.

Know When To Say No

Some people have a really difficult time turning others down when they ask for help. I understand the compulsion to be everyone’s support system, but support yourself first before being useful to anyone else. You know when flight attendants say, “Put on your own breathing mask before assisting others”? Take that as a general life rule. It’s much worse to hit a breaking point when someone is actively relying on your help than request that they look for assistance elsewhere in the first place.

One thing to keep in mind — you don’t owe anyone an explanation, either. If you set aside time for yourself to de-stress from a difficult week and someone comes in last minute to beg for your help on something during that exact same time, simply say “I’m sorry, but I can’t be available then.” Nobody is entitled to your time or an explanation. If they can’t respect your boundaries, there’s a deeper issue at play.

Be Nicer To Yourself

Being nice to yourself doesn’t always mean giving yourself a pep talk. Sometimes it means going out and getting some fresh air because you’ve spent most of your time inside for the last week. Sometimes it means letting yourself go to bed even though you haven’t finished that question yet. Sometimes it means cutting yourself some slack when something you worked on didn’t go as well as planned.

Treat yourself like a close friend. If a friend said they were having a hard time, would you dismiss them out of hand and tell them to suck it up? I hope not! No one is expecting a superhero who can juggle 20 different things at once without breaking a sweat. You’re human and should treat yourself as such. Making mistakes isn’t the end of the world. It means you pick yourself back up and learn how to better handle yourself in the future.

With much love and empathy,

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