How Cutting Back on Commitments Can Help Your Health

(Photo by Selma Komisky)

How Cutting Back on Commitments Can Help Your Health

By Jehn Kubiak

The Queen Bee of Busyness has been a title I’ve long held since my college days, starting at 19 year old, up until 5 months ago. I concurrently worked 2,3, or 4 jobs; when I was in college, I did that on top of campus media and wind ensemble. All my friends knew me as the “girl who never stopped.” A typical day in my junior year of college at 20 years old included making coffee at a cafe in the mornings, then going to class or wind ensemble practice–with homework in between–and lifeguarding on the weekends. Life has been nothing but a whirlwind of chasing after academic accolades or climbing the career ladder, and things escalated to a whole new level last summer.

Though I only worked two jobs, I was perhaps busier than even in my college years since the aquatics industry faced a nationwide shortage of lifeguarding personnel. Both my positions are in management, yet I filled holes for both lifeguards and swim instructors left-and-right. Between the two, from May to October, I worked somewhere between 65-70 hours a week (never less than 60) without a single day off in those six months. In the beginning, I was so thrilled and enjoying every minute.

However, a couple months later, friends and colleagues of mine picked up on the fact that something wasn’t quite right. They’d caution me to stop working so many long days and encouraged me to say “no” to more things. Not too long after that, I physically felt the effects of my summer zeal. I was too tired to function at my normal level, too stressed to eat, and struggling to find motivation each day–even though I absolutely love being by the pool and mentoring my staff. Though I tried hard to fight through it all, I realized I couldn’t keep up the pace anymore.

In the last few months, I additionally have had three injuries, and the last one I received was much of a wake-up call. I had learned my lesson (quite literally, as I injured myself briskly running downhill in a canyon) to slow down and take a breather. I’ve only worked full time, and no more than that, over this summer. Surprisingly, it was one of the best summers I had in aquatics–even though I was inside an office instead of on the pool deck–because I had time to think and focus on taking care of myself.

During this period of slowing down, I’ve learned to value rest of various kinds and questioned why I struggled to see the positives for so long. Part of that is just my personality–effervescently energetic–but, to some degree, I was conditioned into it. Society tells us that someone is always better, and if we don’t compete with our competition, they will win. That having a full schedule is a badge of honor that makes us “somebody.” What better way to stay on top than outworking them? Yet while loyalty is laudable, the saying “fools rush in (where angels fear to tread)” has merit. Workaholism is unsustainable, so burnout is unavoidable. Rest and relaxation are required, whether or not we choose that route consciously or consequentially. .

That need for rest brings me back to the biblical concept of Sabbath. The need for a “day off” from working. While the primary focus of this is to worship the Lord, we can also consider it from His perspective. As the creator, He could have just gone on making more beautiful things. Deciding that His work was never complete and He needed to keep refining–but he didn’t. “It was good.” Think about that for a minute. Not perfect, but “good.” Bringing this back to culture, even for those who only work a normal amount, we sometimes may overwork for fear that things aren’t finished or are incomplete. We think about those emails while making dinner, respond to texts during family time, or mull over the mistakes we made.

A day off should be just that–a space to decompress and remain free from the worries of life and work. A time to spend in nature, in solitude, or with friends and family. But even if you have a day off, maybe you’re still tired and feeling run-down. Turning down great opportunities can be hard, especially if they are something you enjoy, but stepping into a simpler life can move mountains in health and wellness. Perhaps it’s time to cut back on a commitment or two and take a walk in the park.