One of the core American values is hard work. Hard work will lead you to better jobs, and ultimately a better life. We're taught to put our nose to the grindstone, crank out as much work as we possibly can for 30-50 years, and then retire.
Who decided that hard work equated mental and physical exhaustion?
There's no doubting that working hard has become the only way to advance in our society. We start them out young by giving homework to Kindergarteners, add on a little more as each year goes by, send them off to college to work even harder, and then throw them into the working world for another 40 years. Any room to breathe in that timeframe?
Hard work can take you far in life. It builds character and stamina. It prepares you for hardships, both in life and at work. But how much work is too much work?
I've seen students my age crying real tears in class about how stressed they are. Overheard conversations about who stayed up the latest, and who drank the most coffee. Premature deaths by heart attack and stroke. Insomnia. Anxiety. Depression. When did this become the norm?
Of course, we want to achieve maximum success. We want to be known for the work we have accomplished. We may want that internal fulfillment of knowing we have accomplished a job well done. But, as the saying goes, you aren't going to look back at your life wishing you had spent more time at work.
Anxiety and depression rates have continued to increase since the 1950s.
We're seeing mental illness appearing at younger and younger ages.
What led us to this point?
Perhaps it is our desire to achieve success. Perhaps it is the pressures placed on us by our families, friends, and societies. Regardless of the source, the glamorization of over-exhaustion continues to rob us all of healthy and happy minds.
Recognizing in yourself when you are becoming exhausted is important. Just because the person next to you in the office accomplishes more work than you, just because your friends are graduating before you are, just because you got a C instead of an A, doesn't make you any less of a human being. What does make you human is your ability to recognize that you aren't perfect, and not sacrificing your well-being trying to achieve it.
Take a break when you need to. Eat some food and go to bed instead of staying up an extra hour to study (it's doubtful you'll retain any information cramming at 3 a.m., anyway). Overexerting yourself to please someone else is the best way to forget why you started in the first place. Whether it be college, work, or life in general, no work is important enough to take precedence over your own health, happiness, and relationships with others.
As the saying goes, don't take yourself too seriously, because none of us make it out of life alive. Take your time. Carry yourself through the stress, don't unpack and live there. And most importantly, run your own race. Not someone else's.