Go, go, GO! Push, push, PUSH!! If you’re striving to be the best, it’s easy to understand that you are probably someone who seems to be on overdrive all the time — but is this the best path to happiness, health, and peak productivity? Sure, it makes perfect sense to assume that the harder you go, the better you will be, but is there a threshold where your efforts actually become counterproductive to your success? The answer to that question is yes, there is in fact a point where our constant work stops yielding positive results, and instead leaves us exposed to exhaustion, fatigue, stress, anxiety, and burnout. The good news is that there is a way we can ward off exhaustion and fatigue by prioritizing a very basic human need, but one that is so simple it is often over-looked or devalued. What I am talking about is rest.
More isn’t always better
While in many instances it does make sense to work as hard as you can, when it comes to wellness and success, there is actually a very delicate balance between going hard, and taking enough time off to properly recover. Think of it another way — most athletes know that it’s vitally important for their bodies to recover after hard workouts so that their muscles can rebuild. Similarly, taking mental breaks from feeling overwhelmed allows us to re-charge emotionally, thereby allowing us to recover and perform our best.
In today’s world we are constantly bombarded and overloaded with expectations, responsibilities, and sometimes just keeping up with communication and social media. In some moments we feel overwhelmed by it all, and at other times we feel fatigued from negative emotions (i.e. overcoming a tough loss). Continue to push, push, push in these moments can lead to even bigger problems if we don’t stop and catch our breath, including:
- Non-stop thinking wears us down cognitively and physically.
- Not taking time to mentally process prohibits us from learning from life experiences.
- Constantly striving for the next goal without a break doesn’t allow for self-recognition of feats, taking away from important self-esteem and confidence development.
- Powering through all the time leaves our bodies exposed to various illness and disease.
Take ownership of your life goals and paths
Going 100 mph all the time leaves little, if any, time to stop and think about personal values and future goals. When we take pause and employ a birds-eye view of our lives, only then can we evaluate and direct our efforts toward future behaviors that are important to our own unique personal happiness. On the other hand, when we constantly push without taking time off we get lost in the minutia of our moment-to-moment activities without evaluating our progress, or seeing if we need to redirect our efforts.
Tips to using downtime wisely
Taking breaks helps mitigates risks of burnout, exhaustion, fatigue, and stress. The problem, however, is that many over-achievers simply don’t know what to do with their downtime, and therefore don’t fully engage in taking time off from always going. The main mental goal from relaxation is to allow you to clear your mind, decompress, and prevent thoughts and emotions from clouding your mind, and that can be accomplished by incorporating some of the following ideas:
- Write down your thoughts. Often we have trouble shutting our minds down for short breaks because we feel as though we will forget important thoughts, but that worry can be eliminated by keeping a running journal.
- Invest in your unique interests. We all have unique hobbies and interests, but often these activities are only experienced when we feel like we have time to do them (for many people this time never seems to arrive). Make it a priority to experience things that you simply find enjoyable and relaxing, whether it’s drawing, painting, playing games, listening to music, or creating things.
- Lose yourself in peaceful thoughts and images. Meditation, hypnosis, deep thought, and imagery are all examples of using your mind to create/recreate thoughts and feelings designed to help you relax and think more clearly. You will be amazed at the power of short mental breaks where you turn off the noise and simply engage in peaceful thoughts.
Creating downtime to relax is often viewed as an afterthought, or something you do only when you have extra time. Unfortunately, that time for relaxation seems to never come about, that is, unless we prioritize it and fully embrace the power of taking a break. While it might seem in the moment to be taking one step back (relaxing), you will absolutely take 2 (or more) steps forward by clearing your mind by turning off for a short while. Work smarter, not harder, and make it a point to allow for proper mental recovery in order to perform your best.