|Why are we downplaying stress and over-working ourselves and no sleep? The sleep when you’re dead mentality can be, very damaging.
A little about me: I’m lackadaisical. Or at least, compared to everyone else, I feel lackadaisical. I feel as though I lack life. I lack vitality. I’m, for want of a better word, stagnant. I’m perpetually tired, scared, anxious, lacking in vigour. I’m… boring. I think. I don’t burn the candle at both ends – I barely burn the candle at one end! – and never have my shortcomings been more clear to me than today: in the age of social media, where we see the lives of everyone, loved ones and strangers, being lived to the fullest.
The thing that tethers me to this reality, to the constant questioning of ‘but am I really living, though?’: Tiredness. If I’m doing everything – pretending to be someone I simply can’t keep up with – I’m tired. If I’m tired, I’m useless. I’m stressed. I lack life. I lack vitality. I’m, for want of a better word, stagnant. Except this time, I am all of these things IRL; not just comparably, in my mind. See how that works?
I’ve tried being one of those grab-life-by-the-cajones types – running myself into the ground so that I, too, can wear my exhaustion like a badge of honour (‘look guys, I’m LIVING!’) – but despite my best (read: feeble) efforts I simply can’t summon the energy. The thought of running on less than six hours sleep is mental to me. Madness! Lunacy! Up all day, up all night? Nah-uh, honey.
It stresses me out just thinking about it. I look longingly at the lives of other people – burn-the-candle-at-both-end’ers – like a kid peering into the window of a Home Alone-style house at Christmas. Look at the size of that Christmas tree! (Look at how fulfilled they are!) Look at all of those presents! (Look at all the fun they have!) Look at that FEAST! (Sure, they look exhausted, but LOOK at how happy they are!) And, naturally, I begin to berate myself. Why am I not more like that? Where’s my zest for life? Am I broken? Am I wired wrong? Why can’t I hack it? Should I be hacking it? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!
And yet, even in possession of the guilt that comes with leading a potentially unfulfilled life (I should be doing more, living more, working hard, playing harder), I can’t wrap my brain around the ‘sleep when you’re dead!’ mindset. Surely this mantra, though impressive sounding, can’t be a healthy way to conduct your life. Fun? Sure. Anecdote-producing? You betcha. Good for you? Not convinced. And this belief of mine – that, yes, life is for the living, but life is also for the well-rested – has come hurtling into clarity recently. It started with a viral thread and it ended with me fervently retweeting the whole damn thing.
I mean, have you ever read so much SENSE? Running on fumes! It’s what we’re all doing! (Present company now excluded.) There’s nothing sexy about the cellular stress of insomnia! (I absolutely intend on getting that put on a tshirt.) The grind is killing us! We’re all being hustled by the hustle!
Working hard and playing hard is great – admirable, in fact – but working yourself into the ground shouldn’t be something that we applaud, or even look past. (Side note: I feel similarly about the ethos surrounding internships and the idea that you should ‘be the first one there and the last one there’. Why, though? You can show your dedication by being there on time and being the best damn intern the joint’s ever seen. Why subject yourself to the stress of jumping through hoops when that’s not an indicator of anything other than how many sacrifices you’re willing to make in the name of progress?) Progress shouldn’t be about sacrifice. ‘Living’ and ‘surviving’ aren’t the same thing. Killing yourself under the guise of living life to the fullest isn’t what it’s all about. Grinding is grand but mental health is important, too.
There’s an adage that goes a little like this: Stop focusing on how stressed you are and focus on how blessed you are. Well, actually, I’d implore you to focus on that stress a little. Beef it out. See what’s niggling away at you. Be kind to yourself. Take time for yourself. Maybe you’re wiped out; furiously burning that candle at both ends. No one has a monopoly on stress, so don’t guilt yourself out of exploring yours. Work hard, play hard, sleep hard. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s perfectly good snoozing to be had with my name on it…
originally published on 07 Jan 17