I’m no stranger to hard work. I’ve worked a range of backbreaking jobs, from lawn care, in which I hacked apart tree stumps and ripped up Virginia creepers, to maid services, in which I scrubbed floors like Cinderella and cleaned up pile after pile of cat vomit. I’ve worked retail, in which my poor feet kept me standing for hours while entitled customers’ spittle flew into my face. I’ve worked a call center, where I got accustomed to hearing foul language as well as bigoted rants. And I’ve worked theatre, where I screwed sets together, pricked myself with sewing needles, and lugged endless bins of props and costumes up and down stairs.
Even after I settled into a cushy desk job, I was running ragged, packing every minute of my schedule with my graduate coursework and business launch. I spent weekends interviewing teachers for my thesis project, then hopped over to the art gallery to install my latest show. I biked to and from work, then to the circus school where I taught and trained aerial dance. I’d come home at about 9 pm to cook dinner, do chores, and write, then wake up at 6 am to do it all over again.
I was running on pure adrenaline from all the excitement of my life, fueled by a toxic combination of caffeine and alcohol. I subsisted on smoothies many days, and I caught clips of TV shows as I cooked and cleaned. I never took time to relax or unwind — I always felt compelled to work on something.
Needless to say, this was not sustainable, and at the end of 2019, after a long year of constant movement, I finally crashed. All my productivity training and attempts at self-care couldn’t undo the strain I’d put on my life. I started struggling to complete my work, my chores, or even a movie when I did try to relax. I couldn’t even stay awake.
When the holidays came, I forced myself to take some time off work. I let myself sleep in and take naps. And something remarkable happened.
I became lazy.
I started craving time to simply rest and not do anything. I slept in, skipped the gym, and let my to-do list languish. I completed the basic things I had to do, but spent a lot of time watching movies or browsing social media.
And yes, I felt guilty — but also relieved.
I needed rest. I needed to let my body dictate my daily schedule: time to eat, time to shower, time to sleep. I needed my mind to settle down and avoid anything stressful.
After a few whirlwind years in which I moved to a new city, got my master’s degree, switched jobs, launched two new businesses, and became an aerial artist, my body and mind had nothing left to give.
As they say,
You cannot pour from an empty glass.
And my glass was bone-dry.
If you feel like you’re burned out, take it seriously. Having breaks and engaging in self-care are great, but you also need to listen to your body and brain to know when it’s too much. Being burned out is bad for your physical, emotional, and mental health, and can lead to costly mistakes or missteps that can hurt your career or relationships down the line. Take the time now to recover. The only way you can overcome the effects of burnout is to be lazy.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Ask your loved ones to help. It takes a lot of energy to manage a household, and doing the lion’s share of chores on top of running your own life can be exhausting. Find a way to fairly redistribute the chores, if only for a week, so that you can rest.
Take care of your obligations at your peak level. Even if you’re being lazy, you’ll have a time of the day where you feel more energetic. Take that time to knock out any work and make important phone calls and errands. Anything else that comes to mind, write down in a safe place to process later, when you’re not being lazy.
Let the laziness happen. Don’t try to multi-task. Don’t sneak work to the dinner table, or try to get projects finished while you’re watching Netflix. Sit down, relax, and do nothing. It’s good for you — I promise.
I’m almost ready to exit my lazy stage. My guilt has almost abated, but I’m getting a little tired of being tired and a little worried about getting back to the real world. However, I trust that in a few more days, my body and mind will be ready to take on the world again — and I’ll know that I couldn’t do it again without a period of rest.
This time around, I’ll build a lazy Sunday into my schedule.