Why I no longer feel guilty about taking time off
Protecting my mental health is now my number one priority
8 min read
It was cold and the snow on the sidewalk made it hard for me to walk. Nevertheless, I was determined to walk to my destination of nowhere; I felt like if I stopped walking, I would never be the same again. It's hard to put into words exactly what I was feeling. It was my third time feeling it, so I knew exactly what it was. But when you feel yourself dissociating, you panic like it's the first time. I immediately wanted to leave the environment that was making me feel this way.
There's something that I've come to accept about myself recently: I'm not built to be a workaholic. But ironically, that's who I am. I'm accepting something that runs contrary to my current being: a freelancer who's always working on a billion things at once for myself and others. My week is 90% work, including weekends.
"I have to finish this."
"Oh man, I have to put this on pause. I have a deadline coming up."
"I should've finished this ages ago."
"This could be so much better."
My mind runs at a million thoughts per hour, thinking about all the stuff that I have to do and what could go right/wrong if they are finished or not. I press on, trying to do a million things at once but sometimes end up not completing anything. I then burnout, resulting in completing less than what I expected. Then I start to worry, and this worry often ends up in something that is way more daunting.
- As you may have guessed, I suffer from anxiety. It's the most common mental illness in the United States.
- My brand of anxiety differs from many others, but it usually follows the same theme: feelings of doom and gloom that can have different triggers, but most times it's from constant stress.
I'm also addicted to something that has kept me up at night, seven days a week: "Hustle porn". Alexis Ohanian, Reddit co-founder, said it best:
"This is one of the most toxic, dangerous things in tech right now. This idea that unless you are suffering, grinding working every hour of every day, you're not working hard enough. It's such bulls---, such utter bulls---."
It seems that "hustle porn" is dying in the eyes of the public, especially over the past year. With COVID and the trauma of losing loved ones and losing jobs, priorities have been re-calibrated. Several years ago, every other post was about the 24/7 hustle. Now, you'll get "ratio'd" on Twitter if you even suggest it.
- There's been a movement of people, which thankfully includes men, talking about the importance of protecting their mental health. Even some of the biggest "hustle porn" stars (ha!) are starting to admit this.
- Seriously men, we need to talk more about our mental health.
- It really connected with me when Prince Harry spoke about the need to protect his mental health and what he did about it.
The Why: Recent events have made me re-evaluate my priorities. Working 24/7 isn't sustainable on a practical level. It causes burnout for me, and studies have shown time-and-time again that burnout causes loss of productivity. It's illogical to burn myself out in trying to be more productive.
- Deloitte conducted a survey on employee burnout and found there are three major causes: lack of support or recognition from leadership (31%), unrealistic results and expectations (30%), consistently working long hours or on weekends (29%).
- I checked all three, so congratulations to me 🤦🏾♂️.
- Studies have continuously shown the benefits of a proper work-life balance. These include an increase in productivity, lower levels of illness, heightened happiness, and increased motivation.
- Anxiety is terrible and I wouldn't wish it on my biggest enemies. Keeping attacks at bay is paramount.
- Ever since that cold winter's night, I decided that I will no longer look down on rest. I will not feel guilty about listening to my body's need to rest anymore.
- The Deloitte study provides a blueprint for how I can have a proper work-life balance and prevent burnout. I need to believe in myself more, stop setting unrealistic expectations and deadlines for myself, and stop working through the wee hours of the night and weekends.
- I've decided that I will no longer work 24/7. Yes, that includes personal projects. I've put off the launch of my projects so many times already 😩. But, my mental health comes first.
- I've decided that I must do everything in my power to protect my mental health. That doesn't only include the need to rest, but to do more things that make me happy. That also includes finding new things that I'll probably enjoy.
- Yes, we're still in a pandemic. I also work remotely. But I have to find ways to get out more. Restaurants are now open and I'm sure co-working spaces are open for business too. It's time to utilize them.
- I've detected a marked increase in my well-being ever since I made the decision to no longer feel guilty about taking time off. I'm a lot happier now that I refuse to feel guilty about slacking off.
- I know myself, and with this knowledge, I've decided to trust that every decision I make will be the right one for me. Once I put myself first, I trust that everything else will fall naturally in line.
- One of the things that have come as a result of this is writing about the stuff I want when I want. It's been so therapeutic, and coincidentally, has opened new doors for me. I like writing coding tutorials, but I enjoyed writing this non-technical lifestyle piece. I'm looking forward to writing more.