In my 27-1/2 years of living, I notice people are afraid to take a Time-out. They are afraid to take time off--give themselves a break--a breather--a small respite amidst the chaos of Life. They think:
- If I take time off, everyone will get ahead of me.
- If I take time off, what will my coworkers think of me? I'm weak and can't handle the job?
- I won't get that bonus I've been working so hard for if I take a day off.
And the list goes on. So instead of taking a breather, these people push through surviving on tv dinners and 5 hours of sleep a night. They feel worn down and exhausted and they wonder: gosh, I don't know what's wrong with me? Why can't I pull myself together?
The answer: You. Are. Exhausted.
Although I'm not yet 30 years old, I've done my fair share of working through exhaustion and fatigue. Going to a rigorous academic school like Rice University and being a student-athlete there among other school-related responsibilities, YES, there were times when I burned the candle at both ends. And it wasn't pretty. I know my school work and athletic performance suffered for it. I thought I was doing the noble thing--pushing through, sucking it up...When in reality, I was being foolish. In hindsight, I wish I would have taken a Time-out, caught my breath and jumped back in the game with an extra bounce in my step once I regained composure.
And this mindset to suck it up and work through exhaustion wasn't just a "college thing." When I was 12 years old, I swam with appendicitis. A few years later, I competed with walking pneumonia and a stomach ulcer. I trained with a broken rib and busted blood vessel in my face. I raced with a high fever and did some other foolish things looking back on it. I didn't know the limits of my body AND I didn't pay attention to the physical warning signs of burnout and fatigue. I just pushed through. "No pain, no gain," right? This is the price of winning, right? Or is it?
- Be mindful and aware. If you aren't checking in with yourself on a regular basis, how will you know when you're getting close to keeling over and passing out?
- Get accountability. Choose a close friend or trusted colleague to help you. When they start to see your life get out of whack, give them permission to call you out on it. When you start neglecting your friends and family in the name of work, there's a problem. When you eat junk food 24/7 and don't exercise other than walking to the bathroom, that's a problem. Your life is out of balance! You are flirting with burnout!
- Take a Time-out when you need it. This is the hardest one for me. I push and push and push until my engine can't go anymore. I'm afraid of falling behind; what will others think of me if I admit I need to take a break; I can't because my boss can't survive without me….Any of these ring true to you? Remember: "If you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else."
As a wise coach once told me:
Better to take a day off than push through a workout, push yourself over the cliff and be out for the next 7 days.
There's no shame in taking a Time-out! The wise person knows their limits! The foolish person pushes and pushes and pushes until they can't go anymore. They push themselves off the cliff.