I started the spring semester with a new trick up my sleeve: Lexapro. You can laugh. 

As someone who is diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, I never realized how much of my life was run by the adrenaline and the constant fight or flight state I was in. 

During my fall semester, I would describe myself as an overachiever, a bit allergic to sleep, and incapable of doing anything at a normal intensity. This was exhausting. 

This new semester, I’m medicated and feeling deeply unproductive. This led me to a realization. I’m not lazy, I’m just not cranking out the productivity that workaholic American culture made me believe was necessary for success. 

In high school, before a big test, it was a ritual to go around the class and see who slept the least. This strange obsession with deprivation was applauded. Oh, you only slept for 4 hours? You’re gonna ace this thing! 

America, deeply capitalist and astoundingly bad at public health, seems to reward those who never disconnect, never stop, and never take a breath. 

This culture of denying yourself basic necessities and recreation time always inevitably leads to burnout. Or in my case, once you take away the fear, you’re left without the constant motivation to be moving. 

Even now as I’m excelling in my classes, involved in extracurriculars, and maintaining my social relationships, sometimes I find myself feeling as though I’m not doing enough. This is a falsity. 

We as a culture, have got to stop equating neglecting ourselves with success and productivity. After all, burning a candle at both ends doesn’t really make a room smell better, it just makes a mess. 

I invite you to truly think about your standards for yourself and whether or not they are attainable and sustainable. If the answer was no, change it. 

Staying up all night before a test or to get that one assignment just right is fine every once a while, but if it snowballs, suddenly your work has taken over your life. 

American culture wants you to believe that this is perfectly normal. Believe me, I bought in too. 

This idealogy places money and material success over the wellbeing of your mind and body. 

What is a diploma on a wall or a fat stack of cash worth if you’ve driven yourself into a miserable mental and physical state to achieve it?

I recognize that the ability to take time off or to simply allow for more recreation time is rooted in privilege. Sometimes you have to work harder than you are physically capable just to get by. 

I think this is one of America’s deepest failures, but we cannot tackle that in a newspaper article.

So, I invite you to try a simple strategy, when applicable, if you struggle with overworking yourself. Make a list of everything you’ve achieved in a day and do that every day. When you get caught up in feeling as though you simply haven’t done enough, turn to your lists and bask in the fact that you are capable, productive, and strong as hell.

 

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