Give your body a break or it will do it for you. Read that again, out loud. Let that sit with you for a moment.
Why do I say this? I have had moments like this, far too many to count. Recently though, I had worked 12 days straight, most of them late days- all because the company needed me to be there. I don’t doubt they needed this; they needed most of our help in my department. I was worried for my mental health but tried to push that aside. Finally, when I had a weekend to myself, I couldn’t do a thing. I couldn’t lift a finger to cook, clean or even take a shower. I chalked this down to just feeling exhausted, but I was under severe stress and my symptoms from my anxiety and depression were starting to creep in.
The following week, thinking I had conquered this feeling, I continued as if nothing was wrong. I hadn’t addressed the issues or done activities that I label as self-care: reading, long bath, restful sleep, spending time in the garden. I was lying in bed like I had in the depths of my depression. I didn’t journal and review my feelings and try to create balance and boundaries. So, what happened? From the Sunday evening until the Tuesday evening, I had a deep, dull headache; chest pain that I usually associate with anxiety and muscle pain from Fibromyalgia that was worsening due to the anxiety. These were all symptoms I increase when I don’t take a break; when I feel anxious and depressed and I was not listening to my body.
Anxiety and depression (and some other mental illnesses) can weaken the immune responses when they go unchecked. Severe stress can do this too, especially if you’re reading this and thinking “I don’t suffer from anxiety and depression!” If you do not check in with yourself, your body will force you to! Symptoms I was feeling maybe once a week, I suffered from for three consecutive days until the Wednesday morning, I tried to get up and felt I couldn’t. I can push through my pain without it getting much worse with the help of mindfulness, balance and boundaries but I as I said, I forgot to check in with myself, simply believing that I would be fine- or just pretend I was fine. All because I felt the company needed me.
In one of my previous posts, I spoke about boundaries. It doesn’t just apply to your personal life either. This has to do with all facets of your life. Sometimes we feel forced to do certain things at work at the cost of our health, relationships, wellbeing… I have a colleague who has decided to decline certain tasks in a bid to preserve his relationship with his family and for his general wellbeing. I used to get angry at him because that left the work to us, but what if we also declined where we felt necessary? What if we also decided that we needed to have “me time” and connect with loved ones? He has been smart and, in all honesty, if you are being penalised in certain ways because you look after yourself, then that environment is not for you. Your health comes first. If you were to die tomorrow, you would be replaced at the snap of a finger. Done. What was all the fuss about if you didn’t get to enjoy your life and live it happily?
Burnout is real, and the need to make money to make ends meet and lack of employment has meant that more people are feeling the pressure to keep working to make ends meet. Even if that means taking on more than you can to not get into trouble; appease bosses and just make sure that you don’t lose your job. This comes not only at the cost of relationships but our health. If you are not healthy what use are you to your job and how do you then provide meaningful interactions to the relationships around you that matter? It’s okay to say “no” to certain tasks if they impede on your mental health. Just don’t be an arsehole about how you do it. It’s okay to feel you need time to yourself, just plan for it. It’s okay to realise the job is not for you, then make an action plan to move.
No job is worth more than your health. Yes, a job gives us money for basic health care but who wants to find themselves sick and saying, “at least my pay check enabled me to fund this hospital stay, even though it caused it.” Think of yourself and don’t allow suffering to entertain itself while you work.