Once upon a time, I thought burnout wasn’t real.
It was a few years ago, before I knew better. During this time, coworkers would often find me in the company kitchen, bragging about how little sleep I had the night before, or how many hundreds of hours a day I could work.
Like many of you, I considered myself efficient. I was the vaccine against bureaucratic overhead. I was strong; everyone else was weak.
You know where this is going, right?
I’ll spare you the details of my breakdown (or spiritual awakening, as famed researcher and author Brené Brown likes to call it), but suffice to say, it wasn’t pretty.
In hindsight, I’m happy I went through it. I learned many things during that transformative period of my life.
But the biggest lesson? You should chill more. Here’s why.
Okay, maybe not literally, but certainly metaphorically. And I have a sneaking suspicion many of you secretly feel the same way.
First, the usual remarks — technology is sweet. We all carry miniature computers in our pockets, and every answer we need to any problem we face is just a tap, swipe or voice prompt away. Great, right?
However, there are also some very negative consequences to being hooked up to the ‘net 24/7.
Personally, I hit a breaking point when:
- I realized my reliance on Google was diminishing my memory
- My eyes and neck felt incredibly sore after long days in front of various screens
- I became obsessed with capturing my once-in-a-lifetime events rather than experiencing them
- My mood would dip after seeing my friends go on fabulous vacations, have epic parties, and generally succeed at life (whereas I was clearly not)
While more hours can lead to more output, you always hit a point of diminishing returns. It all comes down to that surreal moment, usually late at night or after your Xth consecutive day of working, where it feels like your brain gets hit by a brick wall. You find it hard to think — your mind feels like an engine oiled with molasses. Anything done past that state is usually subpar, low quality work, and it’s holding you back.
Here’s what happened when I took a break:
- I got to see family and friends more (which left me feeling supported, loved and energized)
- I had more time for hobbies (which made me more interesting and creative)
- I was able to catch up on sleep, and I felt less stressed, tired, irritable and anxious
In short, I was more productive. I was excited to get back to work, and actually enjoyed the time I spent there. The quality of my deliverables were also significantly better, even after my time away from the office. And my coworkers and managers noticed.
My first point may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but this one isn’t. I know that both my physical and mental health take a hit when I work too much. Yours do too.
Physically, long hours mean less time for healthy meals and exercise.
Mentally, I found that late nights and long weeks left me feeling like I was always failing, always a little bit behind. I never had time for the people who were most important to me, and my real and genuine connections suffered as a result. On top of that, my stress levels were unbearable.
Once I started to chill and make time for all the other wonderful things about life besides work, I became happier and healthier. It may sound like a stop-and-smell-the-roses-type cliché, but all work and no play really does make you a dull boy!
Remember, human beings aren’t robots (at least not yet).Take active steps against burnout today — you’ll thank yourself in the long run!