Sometimes we don’t realize that something’s wrong…until it goes horribly wrong. Like you don’t realize you have a nail-biting habit that you need to work on, until you’ve started bleeding; and like how you don’t quite realize you have an online shopping issue until your credit card statement comes each month.
Sometimes it feels like you’ve lost your compass
Sometimes we are in a place, where we either see or do not see ourselves spiralling. If we are unable to see ourselves getting unto a dangerous path, it might be because we’ve already deviated so far from our ideals that this path now feels like a “normal” – the place where we should be. And in those instances where we are able to see that we’re going in the opposite direction, and haven’t stopped ourselves – sometimes we don’t have the willpower. We have somehow lost our compass, or don’t have the mental energy to stop ourselves from continuing on this path.
We’re complex beings, and nothing every seems as simple as it looks. So we need to know where our hard lines are, and how we can tug ourselves back before we enter “a point of no return”.
Listen to your body
Prior to this memory, I had been tired for weeks. Not visibly fatigued per se, but my sleep app was showing that I was getting less and less sleep each night and I was getting irritated for the smallest inconvenience. I realized that I also wasn’t meditating as much, or at all. The only thing holding me together at this point, was my exercise routine. At the time my “hard stops” were: not getting 7 hours sleep, not completing at least one meditation each day, and not exercising at least 4 days a week. So, on my little three-legged stool I only had one crutch left…and that was exercise.
There is something that happens to us, once we enter the workforce that I can’t quite explain; but folks who are much younger or older than the average age of the team, those who may be “one of a few” or the “the only one” on a team and those who generally don’t feel like they fit in for whatever reason, feel this more than most. We feel a sense of I blog action to this job, to this team, and to these tasks that is borderline worrisome. It’s not the same kind of “blind loyalty” our parents and the generations before them had, but it’s not too far from it either.
Change your relationship with work
As we’ve evolved as a people, and as capitalism continues to alter our reality: we moved from physical labour to mental labour. Physical/ manual labour is visible. We can technically SEE how much someone is working based on their output. The researcher in me wants to dive into this further and think about all the other factors that could affect output or yield, and their relation to indicators of “hard work”…but I will not lead you down that rabbit hole today.
Mental labour is a bit more tricky right? Because without fields to farm and fruit to pick it’s a bit harder to measure hard work. In the instance of mental work, it’s not quite so easy to SEE that you’ve been working hard. And what does working hard even look like within the context of the 21st century? We can look at Kim Kardashian’s life and wonder why work couldn’t be that easy for us, and she would argue that it’s very difficult work.
So it’s all subjective…and that’s the part that we’re missing. We need to find our own measures for hard work or decent work (it doesn’t have to be “hard” to be good, does it?). It does not need to be a measure visible to anyone else. Because that’s where we go mad. The authors of Time Off – John Fitch and Max Frenzel – spoke about the “busy work” that we do now to compensate for the fact that we technically cannot see or know how hard someone is working or has worked in this new manual labour system.
What’s your “exhaustion story”
Everyone you know has an exhaustion story. You have a exhaustion story. There have been times where you’ve been proud of staying late, where you thought (or maybe still think) staying late is the “norm” or “what everybody else does”. There might have even been moments when you couldn’t recall how long you’ve been awake. There is a very thin line in understanding our value and confusing our value with our work outputs. I know your job provides shelter, food and a safety net of provisions for you and your family but you are not just whatever you do for a living.
Work ethic and rest ethic
As per John and Max, in their book Time Off, you need to have rest ethic to balance out your work ethic. If we really think about it, if we stepped away from the cloud of “busy work”, we know that it unreasonable – in any language and in any world you can imagine – to work without rest. Every person in the history of the world who has ever been successful at anything will mention how they should’ve delegated more or wished they could’ve spent more time with their family or doing things that they enjoyed.
Now, that might have been a little bit dramatic, but I was in drama club in University and speech choir in high school so I am quite the performer lol (might be useful to mention that I was just the treasurer for the drama club...and occasionally helped out backstage but I still did it all quite dramatically).
At some point we have to know that we can improve our current work/rest relationship. I don’t want your first thought on a hospital al bed to be “I can’t wait to get some rest”. What small changes can you start making to prioritize rest, centre self and create a new vision for your work life?
Rest ethic starter pack
If you can’t think of anything, here are a few things that helped me :
- At the end of each work day write down two tasks you need to finish tomorrow (things that are time sensitive, past due, or integral to the department’s functions
- The next day, fill in your daily planner template with your calendar events and slot in time for : the two things you need to get done that day, other smaller/ less time-consuming daily tasks, and breaks
- Move your body every work day (it can be any form of exercise or movement you decide works for you)
- Start and end your work day with these journal prompts (this will allow you to identify the parts of your life that are it in alignment)
- …and so this leads into the final bit – only say yes to the things that align with this vision. I know it can be hard to say “no” in a work setting, but maybe say some variation of: “while I am excited about this opportunity, I do not have the bandwidth to take this on at the moment. As I am currently working on these other tasks ________. Perhaps another team member may be able to assist or perhaps we an have a discussion about adjusting priorities at this time?”. If it’s something you really don’t want to do, then maybe don’t add that part about adjusting priorities.
Wishing you good management as you set boundaries, and give yourself the rest and attention you deserve.