I discovered the importance of “me time” some years back when I was in polytechnic. During a particularly busy few weeks, I found myself sleeping for only x hours every night. When I was awake, I did nothing but stare at my computer screen and pound away at my keyboard, trying to keep at bay the fear of missing my deadlines. The fear of getting kicked out of school for failing. The fear of destroying my future before it had even begun.
Here’s the frustrating thing about burnouts – you don’t realize your circuits have shorted until you find yourself gasping desperately for air, drowning under not only your workload, but the physical and psychological toll of unmitigated stress. The realization that I was burnt out hit me when I found myself constantly spacing out in the middle of conversations, with no idea what I had said or how the conversation had come about in the first place! Lethargy was a dead weight on my body, I was unreasonably short-tempered, and my focus on anything would last only mere seconds. But despite how tired I felt physically and mentally, I still went on to arrange get-togethers with my friends on weekends and during what little free time I had. I was under the mistaken impression that I had to commit to hanging out – that these catch-ups would pull me out of an increasingly negative spiral. Instead, I found myself struggling with poisonous thoughts even while I was in the company of friends. “Why am I not strong enough?” “Am I so weak that I can’t even handle meeting my friends?” Every smile I gave was forced, and I hated that.
The breakdown was inevitable.
I realized that I was living a half-life, and that I didn’t want to simply go through the motions anymore. I committed to taking an entire weekend to rest – no assignments, no going out. But as I was rejecting my friends’ invitation to go out with them, I couldn’t help feeling selfish for prioritizing myself. Feeling conflicted, I confided in my cousin about my deep uncertainties. Her response was simple.
“There are times where you can be selfish especially if it is for yourself.”
After stepping into the workforce, I’ve found it even more important to set aside time over the weekend for self-care. Some people recharge from a long and hectic week by engaging in conversations and company throughout the weekend. For an introvert like me? My couch and a comedy are company enough.
“Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson