The saying is true: we are our harshest critics. We will always be the most judgmental of ourselves and our own actions. That can be a great motivating factor. But it can also add a lot of pressure on ourselves that may push us to burn out. This can happen in athletics, academics and our professional lives as well.
Imagine you are looking for a new job. You’ve applied to dozens of places, you’ve been connecting with your network and have done everything you’ve been advised to do. Nothing is happening. And you feel guilty taking a break to go have dinner with your family or chat with a friend, because you should still be working on getting this job!
We’ve all experienced this. The guilt that we should be doing more, that we don’t deserve a break or we have too much to get done to relax. This is a dangerous mentality. Breaks are important. Being able to step away and take time for ourselves can help you better focus when you come back to the work. Maybe that good friend you want to chat with will give you an idea you hadn’t thought of yet, or help you put things into perspective.
Being kind to ourselves is important. Life is hard, and if we don’t give ourselves a break, no one else is going to. It takes patience and forgiveness of ourselves to grow. If it’s been a tough week looking for jobs, or a tough week for you in school, be kind! Let yourself take a break, recover and most importantly, understand that nothing is going to be perfect. There will always be tough weeks or days, or months. We need to know how to get ourselves through the tough times and into better days without burning out.
Treat yourself like you’d treat your friends and family
Why are we so tough on ourselves and so forgiving of others? Have you ever told a friend or family member going through a tough time that they should work harder, or they aren’t doing enough? Chances are you’ve been a sounding board for them, listening to their challenges and offering support and encouragement. Take that same response and be that support and encouragement for yourself. Whether you journal, go for a walk or talk it out with someone you’re close to, encourage yourself and give yourself the kindness you give others.
Take a break.
No one can work 24/7. We need recovery days, just like we do in the gym. Our brains need time off, whether it’s a good night’s sleep or a day off from screens. Take time for yourself without feeling guilty about the piles of to-dos still left on the list. Those will still be there tomorrow. The guilt we feel for not being productive or spending every waking hour working towards our goal is energy wasted. We need a break so that we can come back to those to-dos refreshed and refocused.
The next time you feel overwhelmed and down on yourself, start to make a list of what you are grateful for. This could be simple things like the nice weather or the food you had for breakfast, or more impactful things like the relationships in your life or the roof over your head. Stopping to think about what you are grateful for is a good way to put the challenges you are facing into perspective and remember what is most important.
We all get overwhelmed and down sometimes - and we will continue to experience challenges that get in the way of our positive mindset. It’s important to practice kindness and patience for ourselves so that we can reflect and grow stronger.