We all know the saying that postulates the exact opposite of this article’s title. “Do not leave until tomorrow what can be done today” or, in German, “was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen”.
In general, I agree with this idea: It’s good to be productive, active and motivated – except for the fact that I, unfortunately and like many others, struggle with anxiety and insomnia. At any given point, I have much more going on than can be fit into a 24-hour day, which leaves me anxious with my head racing come bedtime. Since I haven’t finished everything I could have done, I try to cram in some things even though I’m already exhausted, which leaves me unproductive yet restless even when I finally do decide to hit the bed. A vicious cycle, this propels me into a state of panic where I often end up paralysed, so overwhelmed by all that hasn’t been done, that I’m less productive, permanently fatigued from lack of sleep, and just generally not in a balanced state. It is so hard for me to relax. I know this gets very little sympathy from the lucky people who have no problem shutting their brains of. But if you, like me, have heard comments along the lines of “but why don’t you just… sleep?!” or, “just listen to music or, like, think of something else,” or, “yeah… I can sleep any time (hehe)”, I sympathise with how frustrating it can be for people to belittle this very serious issue. Permanent sleep deprivation leads to a weakened immune system, anxiety can cause you to avoid responsibilities and isolate yourself socially, you look and feel tired, you’re irritable… the negative effects are unfortunately numerous and affect your entire state of being.
And therefore, you don’t need to justify your problem to anybody else.
If they don’t understand or belittle it – feel happy for them that they don’t have this issue. Otherwise we’d all be walking-asleep messes 🙂 But you don’t need to prove to anyone how you feel and what is good for your mental health. We are all different and your needs/issues are different from the next person’s. If you tend to be restless and anxious, that’s your battle – and in this one, I’m there with you!
So one thing I’ve distinctly noted is that this urgency to get everything under the sun done in a day is, at my age and with the diversified interests, activities and responsibilities that come with that, impossible. Especially as a student, it’s a vicious cycle. There is always something more you could read, an essay you could start, a paper you could revise, a test you could study for. Some jobs give you “on time” and “off time” that allow you to detach from work almost entirely, but other professions and studying don’t. In these situations, it’s all the more important to remind yourself that it is ok to relax even if a ton of things on your to-do list are still open.
Tomorrow will come, so you can do more tomorrow. If you haven’t heard back from an internship or professor, there’s nothing you can do (except send a kind follow-up, if a response is truly overdue). Let it go, do as much as you can when you can, but relax when you’ve reached your limit.
After hours of productivity, it’s ok to have unfinished business and the sun will rise tomorrow regardless.
This goes for social things too – I always feel bad if I don’t respond to people right away, but you have every right to turn off your computer or phone and take time for yourself. I hate canceling on things and have a really hard time telling people I just need to stay in and/or rest. But if you’ve reached your limit, you’re only hurting yourself ultimately. The only person responsible for your health at the end of the day is you. Especially as a young solo person – if you don’t take care of your health, no one else will. If you experience burnout, will those you over-committed to be there to nurse you back to health? Probably not. So take care of yourself – it’s your every right. You deserve to unwind.
Some tips from me: shutting off technology (phone and computer off and outside the bedroom. Not just on airplane mode, but OFF off. A text or email can wait a few hours.) Calming music, some tea, a book. Baldrian drops if you’re a nervous wreck beyond reasonable measure. Practice a form of “shabbat” where you go off the grid for 24 hours. Become aware of your surroundings.
Today I reached a point of exhaustion where I couldn’t muster up the energy to do what I should have done. It’s because I over-exerted myself the past few weeks. I am upset at myself for letting today’s responsibilities slip as a result, but it’s just a lesson in what happens when you neglect your mental health for too many days.
Now off to sip my Baldrian with tea and computer off, off, off. There’s messages I haven’t responded to and things I haven’t read. However, the person who needs me the most right now is me.
Relaxed vibes ❤