Most New Yorkers are pretty good at overworking and burning out. I’m certainly good at it. When your week consists of forty work hours and fifteen college classroom hours—double that (at least) for homework—amidst the regular life obligations and busyness of the city, rest is a foreign concept. Sleep? Six hours is praiseworthy. Leisure activity? Nonexistent. Exercise? LOL.
I had loved running and yoga and reading for pleasure. I always kept up with one or two television shows. Those things and others, like walking the city or going out to dinner, are things that fade into the distant background when life gets hectic. Rest isn’t actually a thing for me during grind and deadline season. To be honest, I didn’t see the value in “wasting time” resting and not being productive, nor did I think it was possible. I was obsessed with productivity and even felt guilty if I took time to rest.
My idea of rest was totally skewed, though.
With so much to do, I thought rest meant being lazy, but rest doesn’t necessarily mean idleness, or even relaxation—though it can be relaxation, if that’s what your rest calls for. One definition given by Dictionary.com calls it “refreshing ease or inactivity after exertion or labor,” and another: “relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs.” Rest is a break from labor for a chance to refresh.
I was challenged many times by friends of mine who tried to point out to me that taking time to rest would actually increase my productivity. I’d get back that hour of yoga. Reading for pleasure would open up my mind. Getting enough sleep would obviously benefit the quality of my work. I knew there was a lot of truth to what they were telling me, but I was stubborn.
This year, I decided I had to allow myself that extra time for rest, but I learned that rest is flexible. It can be productive in itself. I committed to yoga once a week and added a run to that once I felt I could handle it. I decided that if I felt like reading for pleasure on the subway instead of reading for school, I’d let myself. I learned how gauge when to go to sleep instead of cranking out another hour of work that would end up mediocre at best.
Somehow, I did become more productive. Not sacrificing those small opportunities to recalibrate and rejuvenate has done wonders for my work. I didn’t sacrifice productivity; I enhanced it. Everything is still hectic, of course, but there is much more overall peace throughout the madness, and the quality of what I do is much better.
Mentally, physically, and emotionally I feel good, and I’m not constantly burning out (or falling asleep). So, I challenge you, if you don’t already take time to intentionally rest, figure out what that looks like for you and implement it into your schedule. It’ll make a difference!
How do you keep from burning out?