“When we were children, we used to think that when we grew up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability, to be alive is to be vulnerable.”
I seem to have inherited an attitude specifically regarding productivity. I seem to live by the phrase “never waste a day” and, although this has its benefits, certain downfalls are present. Now a lot of my knowledge of mental health is specifically related to obsessive compulsive disorder and perfectionism and this certainly would explain the reasoning behind my attitude (either that or I watched too much Eric Thomas as a kid!). However, this seems to be magnified by the recent events of isolation and has caused me to step up training, reading and university work.
For me I have continued my everyday reading of academic papers (even though lent ended 20+ days ago), reading more books for ‘pleasure’ and stepping up my training to try and keep my power and strength while also trying to expand my gymnastics skills with handstands and backbends. I have been surprised that I have taken to training without a barbell with such fervour as I see it as a great way to improve all other physical skills – in order to get better at Olympic Weightlifting (don’t think I’m becoming a gymnast) – and have actually enjoyed going back to some of triple jump training. That was the first love even before Olympic Weightlifting.
However, I have never felt ‘burnt out’ as much as I have in the past 5 weeks. I have tried a few times to take a day just to lay down and recover and maybe watch some criminal minds but after about an hour I feel guilty and end up training anyway. I always feel worse after anyway.
What I would say, after looking into burnout research, is this attitude is not sustainable in the long-term and will lead to some higher level emotional breakdown. From experience, any time my busy schedule (busy because I have meticulously planned it) is disrupted, it causes immense feelings of guilt, shame and leaves me depressed. In looking for productivity and personal improvement I have caused other issues that, in my opinion and the opinion of many researchers, are significantly worse.
A couple of days ago I was watching a video for my studies (see below) and came across a quote that went something like this: “If I am living every day to my personal values then I am successful every day”. This really struck a chord with me. Why does each day have to be lived without ‘wasting’ an hour for it to be deemed successful in anyone’s books? I thought about my values many times and many common themes come up – persistence, overcoming struggle, helping to inspire. Do these necessarily mean I can’t lay in bed all day and still consider myself successful? I would love to hear some other peoples views on this (those who have been messaging me already about these blogs I thank you).
I don’t think I will ever be the kind of person to lay in bed all day just doing nothing but I am starting to realise that doing that is absolutely fine and you should never feel that way for taking the time to relax. Taking the day is nothing to be ashamed of and don’t let anyone say otherwise. Social media outlets are the worst for feeling guilty about yourself and I have started viewing my Instagram as a personal training diary (the reason I got it) as oppose to an outlet for documenting my productivity.
I think the effects of the recent isolation have really heightened my self-evaluation and I am sure I am not the only one. My personal goals remain the same – get masters, become a better athlete to improve weightlifting (I really want that 300kg total) and become a better person. The last point is my biggest goal and I think it can be achieved by me taking a step back occasionally and seeing how far I have come in life and the progress I have already made. It may be that noticing these and being aware of them will allow me to feel like I can relax without feeling guilty.
My lessons on this would be:
- Take the day to chill and do nothing if you feel you need a break
- Have a think about what values you want to live your life by and try and live by them everyday and you will be successful (understand that living by your values doesn’t mean you have to train multiple times a day everyday, read a million papers or write an essay).
- Take the time to notice your achievements and be proud of them.
- Try not to compare yourself to others especially not on social media (if everyone is anything like me they probably only post the good stuff anyway)
- Always ask for help if you need it.