In our culture, we romanticize the idea of working ourselves to the bone. A hard worker, that is, one who dedicates their time wholly to their job, leaving none for themselves, is one to be respected. This mentality is pushed particularly hard onto students. It’s not a stretch to say that many high school and college students are expected to have straight A’s in their classes, a slew of extracurriculars, a part time job, and a social life for good measure. Is it ever expected they should sleep?
It is important to set time aside for yourself. This doesn’t mean it’s important to take time out of your busy schedule to busy yourself with something else; it means it’s important to take time out of your busy schedule to allow yourself to do nothing. Watch TV, read a book, play a video game, even just sitting down for a bit -- the things that our society demonizes as “time wasters,” “laziness,” or “pointless” are actually so important to your mental and physical well being. They allow you to relax, rest, and decompress.
With leisure time looked so down upon, it’s no surprise that mental illnesses like anxiety are so rampant in this day and age. Constant labor causes wear and tear on the body too. Destroying oneself for one's work is almost seen as noble, and that is ridiculous.
The idea of competition plays a huge role in this. It is drilled into us that you must be better than the next person, or else you’re no good at all – therefore, you have to work and work and work and work… until you’re at the (impossible-to-reach) top of the pyramid. In reality, it’s totally unreasonable to compare yourself to others, because that usually results in holding the entirety of yourself up to the best parts of someone else, and of course you can’t beat that. With this in mind, it’s easier to see that giving yourself time for a twenty-minute nap or an hour-long Netflix session isn’t going to ruin your life.
This isn’t a call for mediocrity, either, although “mediocrity” in itself is a complicated and subjective term. Of course, hard work and determination are virtues rather than vices; it is simply important to know when this determination is causing your more stress and harm than good, when to call it quits for the time being, and how to separate your work time from your play time.
Of course, following through on these claims requires an idealistic view on the world. In the culture we live in today, constant working is often a necessity. There is no denying that there are people who need to work three jobs in order to live, who need to be the academic best in school in order to get into college, who need to sacrifice their personal time in order to just survive. The idea of “leisure time” comes across as a very privileged sentiment, and all things considered, perhaps it is – but this is due to a flaw in our society rather than a flaw in the ideology. For now, maybe the best thing to do is to stop feeling guilty about spending that half hour on Twitter instead of on that English reading. Your brain will forgive you.