It’s a Monday morning and my mind is racing with everything that needs to be within the next 24 hours. I look over my diary and check the ‘rules’ I have set up for the day: wake up at 5, don’t use your phone for the next 2 hours, get started on your class-work immediately, and most importantly – rest only when you’ve finished a week’s worth of homework.
This was a typical start to my week when I was in 11th grade. Every single day I woke up as early as I could, slept until my body gave in to the exhaustion, and spent every single minute of my spare time reading books for my literature class. Literally. I read Henrik Ibsen during 10 minute car rides.
A normal weekday in my life involved waking up at 5am to do math, going to school and using every single free class I had to study in the library, spending 4 hours after school at the golf club (doing some sort of physical activity), and coming back home only to pour over my school notes again.
Now typically you’d want to be doing the things I was doing and you’d find my hard work commendable. From afar, I was doing well at school, performing ably at golf, I was “healthy” and “spending my time constructively“. But deep down, I was miserable.
I was hardly ever going out with my friends on the weekends, every free lecture spent mingling usually ended with a guilt trip. Basically my social life was close to non-existent and I was tired all the time. Soon enough, the weariness on my face was seen, first, by my dad and then quickly by my teachers at school.
On one occasion, during the aquatic meet at school, I burst out crying for no apparent reason (it was stress, as I now know it). Everyone around me consoled me, I was taken to the infirmary immediately, my dad was called and I was asked to go home and rest. The next week consisted of wretched days curled up in bed, unable to move, tired, sick, and depressed.
I knew I needed to change then.
I now know that I was suffering from a severe case of being a perfectionist, and over the months, I have learnt a great deal about taking time for myself and not going ballistic about every single minute that I spend on social media, meeting friends, or doing anything besides schoolwork.
It’s essential to work towards living a balanced lifestyle making time for work, friends, family, and setting goals that focus on aspects that are physical, mental, and spiritual.
I learnt this the hard way by going through a complete burn out. I’m much better today and I’m aware that setting unrealistic goals is going to do more harm than good. Instead, I focus on being productive and getting work done in a timely matter so that I can focus first on being happy and calm, instead of being frantic, dispirited and totally worn out.