It always seems easier to give advice than to take it. This seems to be a common problem with my generation. We have grand ideas and viable solutions to problems, but fail to apply them to our own lives.
So what happens when we don’t heed our own warnings and ignore the signals of distress?
To quote the Fresh Prince, “Here’s a little story about how my life got flip-turned upside down.”
It’s no secret that I suck at saying no. I even broadcasted that across the internet last week. But due to that personal struggle, I have seen a lot of my personal “free” time dwindle and disappear altogether. I take on multiple projects at once and work myself into the ground until I am satisfied with them. So yes, (Mr. Interviewer), being a perfectionist really is my greatest flaw.
Go hard or go home. This is the mentality that my father instilled in me from an early age. You give it your all, or you don’t bother at all. I tend to pull out all stops when it comes to completing a project. This often means long hours and endless tweaking of tiny details (that no one else could possibly notice). To put it simply, this is who I am. I don’t stop until I get things right.
Until the cows come home. So, about that “going home” part earlier… here comes another lesson from my farm-grown childhood. My family prides ourselves on being the first ones in and the last ones to come in and go home. Work does not end at 5pm for me any more than it does for my farming family. We work the hours it takes to get something done right, the first time (or at least we try). All of these hours add up though, and it’s important to remember that you have the right to sleep.
Constant contact and the Velcro phone concept. Normally, I’m pretty good at putting down my phone,because I’m genuinely interested in the world around me. This all goes down the drain when I have an active project, and it might as well be Velcro-ed to my hand. In this industry, if you are unreachable you (almost) become unemployable. We spend hours attached to our phones and computer screens waiting for notifications and updates. I personally pride myself on having a quick response time. No one likes to be kept waiting, especially clients. Despite this, I have to actively remind myself that it is okay to unplug and exist outside of my Outlook app.
When did being passionate and driven create such a problem?
So where does that leave me? To be blunt, I spent most of last week absurdly ill. I even resorted to going home sick from work (for the first time in years). I can blame the miniature bio-terrorists (preschoolers) that my boyfriend teaches all I want, but when it comes down to it, no complaints or excuses, I did this to myself.
How, you might ask? I did this to myself by ignoring the signs of exhaustion and over-exertion. I literally worked myself into the ground. Truth be told, I even stopped writing this a couple of times to work on projects for other people. I pushed my own limits too far and paid the sniffly price. Unfortunately, this isn’t a lesson you learn once and are done with. This, like many other things, is a process.
Your mental health impacts your physical health. What happens when you go to the gym without eating or drinking for days on end? You come out feeling like garbage. The same can be said of not tending to excessive stress and sporadic sleeping habits. Don’t let your stress overwhelm you, because it will eventually take it’s toll on your physical health as well. How do high blood pressure, fatigue, ulcers, and heart disease sound? These are among the list of physical illnesses that chronic stress can contribute to according to the American Psychological Association. To put it simply, excessive stress is scary.
It’s okay to take a break. Remember nap time in preschool or recess in elementary school? We’re really not that different from children. Take time for yourself every now and again and sleep. I know I’ve said it before, and it’s still true. Stop running yourself into the ground to get things done at an unreasonable pace (that you set for yourself). Take your time, and take breaks when you can. If all else fails, you have the right to decline. That’s right, I said it. You are allowed to say “no”. It’s not rude or impolite, it’s honest. Do not sacrifice your sanity to avoid disappointing someone else.
Be upfront and honest with your clients. Most people will understand if you explain your thoughts and your situation. Clients are people too and they understand when life happens. All you need to do is communicate, set reasonable deadlines, and follow through like the rockstar you are.
In my fatigued, plagued state, I reached out to a client to let them know that I was sick and that I would continue to work on their project as soon as I was feeling better. Their response was incredibly supportive:
“I am very appreciative of your help. Take care of you! It’s all good.” – A Great Client
I also pride myself on having awesome clients (check out one of them here), and they still continue to surprise me. Clear, honest communication is always the best policy with all relationships. Be relatable and honest. It’s likely that your client has experienced a similar situation or will do their best to understand.
For the rebels who skipped straight to the end: Don’t ignore the warning signs along the way and heed your own advice. If you happen to find yourself in a stressful situation, communicate and take a break if you need to. Don’t burn your candle at both ends.
Stay excellent, my friends and good luck!