Lifestyle · Mental Health

Putting your life before your work

A week ago, I had a pile of work to do and that familiar voice in my head telling me to stay late and then to work at home until the early hours of the morning. Thankfully a voice of experience spoke louder. “No, you’ve been there before. It made you ill. Don’t do it”. I listened to the wisdom, loud and clear. I took my laptop and stack of papers, locked them away and went home.

Why do we work so hard?

In this capitalist world, it seems that many places of work have too much work to do and not enough staff to meet the demand. This puts a lot of pressure on staff on the ground. Particularly for those who really care about their work and the situations that may ensue as a result of work not being done, it can be hard to walk away. However, it’s really important to have personal boundaries and to know when to stop. I unfortunately learnt this through many mistakes of not putting myself first.

Over the course of 5-6 years, I had to be signed off work for around two weeks each year due to stress and exhaustion. I experienced heart palpitations, nausea, headaches, the sweats, insomnia and paranoia. It left my family worried about my condition and I imagine that the paranoia would have damaged relationships at home had I been in a relationship at the time.

In my head, I felt that if I did not complete the work, I would look like a bad worker. I worried people would think less of me. I worried I’d let my team down or that the workload would fall on them and that was what I wanted to avoid at all costs. I worried my bosses would say I was negligent and not pulling my weight. In reality, most of these perceptions were all in my head and did not reflect the truth.

Why we should say ‘no’

Unfortunately there will always be circumstances dependent on others’ work ethics or agendas where they may think you need to do more. The point is, at work we are often thought of purely as workers. I shocked a colleague a few weeks ago by reminding them that I was a human first. Sometimes we forget our own sense of being at work and our basic needs as humans.

We need sleep and rest to be able to function. Our brains deserve some downtime from working so hard for us. If you place too much of your energy into work, an imbalance is caused within. Your body gets increasingly tired as you burn out the resources that your body needs to heal, repair and to function on a basic level.

Try not to feel guilty or allow others to make you feel guilty if you’ve met your limit. If you’ve done your contracted hours, you are not obliged to work overtime. Anyone who forces you to do so has likely forgotten their own humanity and subsequently forgotten about your very human needs. Remember, you’re a human first and being a worker is merely a part of who you are. You are also a friend, someone’s child, possibly a parent or grandparent, you’re all of your hobbies and interests…you are so many things, not just a worker.

Work hard, but don’t make work become your whole life (unless you want to). Remember to make time for things that are important to you.

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