The price of pushing ourselves too hard

Photo by Pim Chu

Photo by Pim Chu

Everyone likes to impress. Whether it’s for a promotion, a status rise or simply for being liked, accepted or acknowledged, we all love getting recognized for our efforts. Many of us turn going that extra mile into a habit - giving our work just one more push before handing it over; just to make sure that the standard of what we deliver is not merely good, but great.

But what happens when that extra effort turns into hours and hours of habitual overwork? Late evenings, weekend sessions with the laptop, extra early mornings and shortened lunch breaks, just to meet the often imagined expectations of those around us?

The price to drive ourselves to the limit of our capacity is high. Burnout rates are soaring in work environments across the world, and the rising popularity of mindfulness can also be seen as a fight against an overachieving society and work culture that is about to drive us to the edge of the cliff that is our wellbeing.

Before we reach the actual burnout point however, there are usually subtle signs of what is about to happen, and important elements start making their exit from our day to day lives: Creativity. Joy. Reflection. Play. Time to ourselves. Space to just be. And isn’t it in this being that where we often find our best ideas, our most genuine feelings and authentic selves? To lose touch with this is to get led far, far astray from our most important path - ourselves.

We are human beings, not human doings. Before we start overdoing and underbeing, we have much to gain by starting to notice when we are feeling out of touch with the inner voice that tells us what we need. Once this voice has gone quiet, it is often a sign that we’ve exhausted our natural energy resources. The good news is that our energy will come back, if only we let it and give it time and room to do so.

So what are some tangible ways of retrieving our energy? While it’s going to look slightly different for everyone, here are some good options to try:

Nature

Connecting with nature is key, and something that all of us need to do as often as we possibly can. Going out for a walk, a boat ride, visiting the park or the nearest nature area is a solid way of touching base with our roots and the planet that we live on, a soothing act that can recharge us for days to come.

Meditating

While not everyone takes to traditional meditation, it is well worth a try if you haven’t given it a go yet. For some simple and effective guided mindfulness meditations, please visit Frantic World and explore their guided meditations – well worth a try. If you would like to find out more about mindfulness, I can highly recommend the complementing book Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world available here.

Music

Listening to music that you love is often a fast-track to reconnecting with your inner self. Clemencey Burton-Hill writes about how listening to classical music helped her from her anxiety and panic attacks, when meditation wouldn’t work. Get her book Year of Wonder: Classical Music for Everyday here. As a bonus, here is a wonderful TED-talk by pianist James Rhodes about music and the inner self.

Clemency Burton Hill's Classical Musts

Dance

The perfect blend of art and exercise, dancing has been proven to be incredibly beneficial for both the body and the mind. If you haven’t given dancing a try yet, perhaps now’s the time? You don't have to aim for becoming a ballerina to enjoy dancing, a little goes a long way with this beautiful art form. Read more about the benefits of dance here.

Yoga

Yoga is another practice that has been proven to do wonders for the body and the mind, making use of both physicality and meditation. Widely accessible today, why not make a yoga class a regular element of your week? Find out more about yoga's benefits in this New York Times article, and find out about different yoga styles in this helpful guide from Harvard Health


Work, philosophyRebecca Delgado