If you feel like you’re constantly running on a treadmill just to stay the tiniest bit ahead in your life, you’re not alone.
Our world is increasingly characterized by exhaustion, burnout, and dissatisfaction. Most of us struggle just to work enough to pay our bills, let alone spend time doing something we enjoy, or – God forbid – relax. How do we rest when we’re stuck in a relentless cycle of hustle and grind?
It may seem impossible to allow yourself a pause. I propose that it’s essential if you don’t want everything to fall apart.
I used to function this way too. I worked constantly. I never took vacations or time off. I thought I couldn’t afford to do anything but work relentlessly and make sure that I didn’t end up behind on anything. Sure, I was never late paying rent or bills. On the other hand, I was constantly anxious, stressed, depressed, and exhausted. I lived in a state of victimhood and entrapment. I was allowing my life to happen to me because I felt there was no way out.
As I got a little older, I slowly started changing that mentality. I began taking vacations here and there, traveling for my own enjoyment. I took days off when I needed them. Still, I felt trapped, and still, I was riddled with anxiety. It took several near-breakdowns over the past few years to realize that something had to fundamentally change. I couldn’t go on that way. I almost didn’t, a few times. I am so grateful that I had the strength to pull myself out of the darkness and bokeep on surviving.
It took some outside help, but mostly it took me making the decision to change my life. I had never stopped hustling long enough to realize that I was stuck in a nervous system imbalance, a constant state of fight-or-flight. Even when I attempted to relax, I couldn’t actually get there. Forget “doing nothing”! I still struggle to take time to simply observe the world without any task or activity involved. Yes, reading is an activity. So is meditating, even. I’m talking about time to sit with yourself in stillness, be with nature, or just wander with no plan in mind.
If you don’t allow yourself to pause, you are absolutely guaranteed to burn out. That’s a promise. We are not machines and we should not be expected to perform as such.
I know that you may not even understand the concept of pausing. I sure didn’t. You can begin small. Give yourself the gift of ten unscheduled, unplanned minutes every day. Use it to do nothing at all. Not nap, not catch up on emails, definitely not numb out on television or social media. It’s only ten minutes. You can make that happen. We waste so much time throughout the day with distractions, and then we don’t have any left to fill our own cups. You can start to adjust that habit, slowly but surely. Then when you’ve established this pattern, increase your time, little by little.
Eventually you may even feel comfortable taking a mental health day off from work, or going on that trip that you always tell yourself you can’t afford. I ask you this – can you afford to live this one precious life in a state of unhappiness? Is that what you want to do? I doubt it.
I believe that you can learn to take a pause when you need one. Set boundaries. Put your health first. You deserve that much. I love you.