Balance Over Burnout



Messenger Staff

At one point in my life, working 70 plus hours a week was normal for me. In my twenties, I typically worked long shifts about six days a week for what I realize now was a very small paying salary. I remember always being exhausted, sometimes to the point of illness. My standard day only held time for commuting, working, a quick meal, and the exhausting commute back home before I crashed in my bed only to start over again the next day. Yet the longer hours I worked, the more verbal praise I got from my boss, which fed the vicious cycle until my body forced me to slow down.

Elon Musk tweeted this quote in 2018 which references working at one of his companies: “There are way easier places to work, but nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week”. While Elon isn’t wrong here, it is important to know when to step away and take a break. Let me be clear, I’m not against working hard. In fact, I believe that hard work is necessary in order to be successful. When I’m really passionate about my work or concerned about meeting a deadline, I often find it hard to pull myself out of work-mode. The truth is you will have to work hard at your job at some point or another in order to do your job well. The trick is knowing the line between hard work and overwork, which can lead to burnout very quickly.

In some instances, overwork is unavoidable. The recent pandemic has shown us that industries like medical and food service have really impacted workers who have worked extremely long hours leading to physical and emotional exhaustion. Aside from that, I think that some of us put pressure on ourselves to work as much as we can. In our minds, working hard usually leads to financial gain and success which is a status that most of us want to achieve. Something we rarely stop to consider however is the impact that consistent overwork can have.

A friend of mine once told me, “If you don’t take time for your wellness, you will be forced to take time for your illness.” We shouldn’t glorify overworking ourselves either. If you think that working non-stop overtime, getting less than six hours of sleep every night, and not having enough time to eat regularly won’t catch up to you, you are very wrong. I know from personal experience that burnout is real and it can happen to anyone, no matter how much motivation there is to succeed. In fact, chronic stress is one of the most common health issues in the workplace. It can lead to physical consequences such as hypertension, digestive troubles, chronic aches and pains and heart problems. Chronic stress can also negatively impact mental health because it’s linked to a higher risk of depression, anxiety and insomnia. People who are exhausted are more likely to make poor decisions as their reasoning becomes impaired, and they are also likely to develop health challenges.

No matter how busy we may be with work, we should always make time for our personal wellness. Practicing work-life balance techniques can help prevent burnout in the workplace. One technique is making sure you have set hours to work and sticking to them. This technique is possible if we prioritize our to-do lists and play to our strengths. Get the top priority things done first and try to delegate tasks that can be done quicker by someone else. Also, understanding what times of the day your mind is most focused is a good way to know how to schedule in those tasks that require just a little bit more brain power. If you are a morning person, take on difficult tasks before noon. Just remember, when it’s stopping time, it’s time to go.

Another way to practice work life balance is by making time for you. TAKE YOUR LUNCH! Yes, you are human, and you deserve to eat. I can’t tell you how many times I have skipped my lunch break to keep my productivity going, only to burnout before it was time to leave for the day. Sometimes it’s better to clear your mind and step away, even if it’s for a few moments. After work, make dinner plans, connect with a friend, do something you love, and make time to exercise. You deserve to have personal time to unwind from your day.

In a perfect world, we would all have the balance we need in our lives to maintain personal wellness. The reality is that sometimes we have to work beyond forty hours and put in the extra effort to complete our work. It’s okay to work hard, just don’t burn yourself out. Remember that while hard work is important, we don’t live to work, we work to help us live our lives.

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