How often are you the last person to leave the office? Or how often do you say “yes” to a few more personal projects than you really have time for?
Ultimately, not taking care of yourself is going to cost you more time than taking care of yourself will. We want to make the most of our free time and we’re always trying to iron more discipline into our work ethics, but this can only go so far.
There are a lot of signs that show up when a workaholic starts pushing themselves too hard. It becomes easier to let those phone calls from family members to voicemail, it makes sense to indulge in an overabundance of caffeine, and staying up an hour too late to work on something makes perfect sense. It manifests differently for everyone in the little ways we scale back on taking care of ourselves.
You might not believe me right away, or you’ll think this is one of those platitudes about trying to be healthier in the new year. Either way, hear me out.
It’s good to work hard. It’s good to be productive. We want to make something of our names and of ourselves. While pursuing this goal, even workaholics need to take care of themselves and make time for health maintenance.
Illness has a funny way of sneaking up on you.
I’ve been some level of sick for the last seven weeks. Yep, that’s a pretty long time. I’ve had three different illnesses — first a nasal infection, then a case of acute bronchitis, and then a throat infection. I’ve never fully recovered between any of these illnesses and infections, which is most likely why I’ve gotten a little bit better, then just slipped into another ailment. I don’t have health insurance at the moment, because yay North America, so I only forked out the money to see a doctor at an urgent care for the bronchitis, since that was actually pretty unbearable.
Ultimately, I’ve lost three days of pay and had to use two days of vacation time I much rather would have used for well, gee, an actual vacation.
Now, this is starting to sound like a rant, so let’s get focused and get to my point here. This is an example. This is what happens when you push all day long, run the tank down to empty, but don’t take the time to refill it.
How is it that sleeping less to push yourself harder going to really serve you well if you end up sick?
You’re going to lose more time to that illness — entire days spent battling high fevers or any other number of health conditions — and then you’re not getting a single thing done. The amount of time lost to being unable to work at all is greater than the time gained by cutting back on time invested in being healthier.
This might sound contradictory to all the advice about getting up earlier and doing more.
It doesn’t have to though. If you have a crazy working life, you can still get a lot done without letting your general health go to the wayside. It’s all about optimizing your time as much as humanly possible and ensuring that while you push your hubbies and side hustles to the next level, you’re still taking care of your body too. Because if pursuing your goals means pushing yourself beyond your limit, you’re going to end up like me, sick for seven weeks and wearing a surgical mask to the office every day.
We do want to work hard, but we have to maintain some balance in also taking care of ourselves. We want to push ourselves over the mediocrity we’re trapped in.
After all, they say that mediocrity rises. So we as individuals may as well rise, right?
I stole that line from lyricist Ray Davies, quite a clever writer he is.
So yes, get up earlier, put more time into your hobbies and hustles, maximize the time you spend commuting, but make sure you’re also getting enough sleep and nutrition to make all of those things possible.
As much as we hate to admit it, exercise helps.
When I spend extended periods of time planted in front of my computer working on art or designs, I end up with shoulder pain to go with the expected carpal tunnel. I had problems with my right shoulder back in 2015. But from working out periodically and going to yoga periodically — not even with proper consistency, I’d skip a month here and there sometimes, that recurring pain went away completely. Now, after these seven weeks of being sick and obviously not doing any exercise, since exertion means coughing fit, that shoulder pain I haven’t felt in three years suddenly came back.
This example is to illustrate that taking time to exercise, even if it’s just a once or twice a week yoga class, can really help. It’s time, yes. It’s an expense, yes. But if you’re broken, sick, or aching when you’re trying to work and be productive, how much are you really going to get done? It’s a question that you’ve always got to ask yourself.
We’re not machines. We probably all wish we were sometimes, but just like making time to write, we also need to make time for physical maintenance. There’s more to it than simply sleeping enough and eating decently. We’ve also got to take care of the parts of our body that we often take for granted, like muscles that are on the cusp of having ongoing problems.
This is doubly important if you’re living with any chronic conditions.
Some of my dearest friends are struggling through chronic issues; everything from stomach problems, to migraines, to anxiety, to depression, or with back conditions. The ones I’ve mentioned are a small array of the potential chronic issues that people silent troop through their working lives while handling silently.
If you’re crunching as much productivity as possible out of every minute of free time you have and then cutting back on sleep and nutrition, it’s not going to bode well for your general health or any conditions you might have. This sounds pretty obvious, and frankly, the people I know with chronic health conditions know this. They know perfectly well that working long hours and letting that bleed into health maintenance isn’t going to serve them well. Regardless, we all need this reminder, because it’s easy to get lost in the drive to be productive.
Ultimately, we need a balance between productivity and staying healthy.
This is where the difference comes in between being productive and being a workaholic who needs to stop and take care of him or herself.
So please, let this be a reminder to work hard but also rest properly. We need these reminders more often than we think.
Get enough sleep.
Eat well enough to support your immune system and your overall health.
You can allow some of your free time to go into self-care and ensuring your body is healthy. It’s better to in the long run. Going beyond just general health maintenance alright to celebrate the road behind and the accomplishments you’ve made so far with your iron work ethic.
I know how hard it is to balance, eating healthy costs money, and we’re all breaking our backs to make enough money to afford rent and necessary bills like that. But strive to budget to allow eating better as often as possible. It’s another thing that requires attention and balance, else the scales will be tipped in the direction of an engine running on empty. You’ll inevitably get sick and get set back. None of us really want that.