Many of us find ourselves in a revolving door of hustle and grind. School, work, life, repeat. There’s often little priority given to resting because rest can be seen as lazy and unproductive. But, research suggests that isn’t true. Just look to nature – even the trees and the plants and the soil and the animals take breaks to be the best that they can be. Yet, in the middle of an on-going pandemic, we continue to grind – but as the great Nap Bishop Tricia Hersey says – “You are not a machine. Stop grinding.”
What if instead we dilly-dally, daydream, rest, and play more?
Why the Grind Needs to Stop
Well, simply: We. Are. Burnt. Out.
85% of college students report being overwhelmed by everything they had to do at some point within the past year. 1 in 3 working adults feel burnout in the workplace. And for what? We lose $500 billion each year in lost productivity and 550 million working days due to stress on the job. It’s such a problem that the World Health Organization officially included burnout in its International Classification of Disease.
Our productivity doesn’t go up when we grind either. In fact - we are more productive when we rest. When we give ourselves a chance to slow down and take a break, our brains are sharper, we’re more creative, get more done in less time, make better decisions, prevent illness, and are able to review and reflect on our days. And, even if our productivity did go up when we were grinding - our pay hasn’t gone up, so why are we doing it if we haven't seen a return on investment?
How to Stop Grinding: Finding Balance to Avoid Burnout
One of the best ways we’ve found to avoid burnout and find balance in life? Set boundaries - with your friends, family and yourself. It can be hard, but with practice you will make time to: engage in self-care, find enjoyment, spend time on hobbies, connect with friends, get some exercise, sleep a little (or a lot) and so much more.
So, how do you set boundaries? Here are few tips:
- Seek help . Reach out to those that can help, including professors. They can give you tips for succeeding in their courses.
- Conduct a personal audit of situations, times, or people that cause you stress or anger. This helps you recognize these circumstances in the future so you can be prepared and have strategies already in place to help you cope.
- Choose and set clear limits for yourself. Many times the people that cross our boundaries the most are us. It’s vital that you determine what goals or activities are most important to you (like rest, exercise, family, cooking meals, getting good grades, etc) and keep them at the top of your priority list.
- You should communicate your boundaries with those around you, particularly those that are most likely to cross them. And, it’s important to let someone know when they’ve crossed one of your boundaries when they do it.
- Practice saying “no.” No’s tend to be super hard for people to say. So it’s important to practice saying no in low risk situations - like getting a coffee for example. When they ask if you want whipped cream with that…. no. Practice in front of the mirror - wherever, whenever so when you really want or need to say no you can.
- Use the 4 D system. When you make a to do list, determine if you are going to do it now, defer it to another time, delegate it to someone else (like if it’s a group project or if you’re in a student organization, etc), or drop it - and just decide it’s something you don’t have to do at all.
- Finally, prepare for pushback . People don’t often get told no or have people enforce boundaries (because we’re pretty bad at doing it as a society). So, know that others will likely react to you enforcing boundaries - this just means the boundaries were necessary. (Also, don’t forget, you are most likely to step over your own boundaries so be prepared to keep setting boundaries for yourself!)
Keep Pressing Pause
Our societal culture of hustle and grind is why Recreation & Wellness created the Press Pause campaign for Winter 2021 – a gentle reminder to give yourself a break. Remember, that it’s okay (and vital) to rest. Even a five minute pause in our days can lower our heart rate, loosen our muscles, increase immunity, improve sleep and digestion, and elevate our overall well-being. The semester is coming to an end and we know that stress and burnout will be even more pronounced. So, plan time to press pause and honor your boundaries. And - don’t forget to keep pressing pause into the spring and summer.
Wishing you a day (month, year, life) full of daydreaming, dilly-dallying, resting, playing, and contentment.
Want to learn even more? Request a WIT presentation about Finding Rest in the Grind.
By: Katie Jourdan, Student Health Promotions Coordinato
Picture this: You’re on the bus heading to class,
walking at the park, or waiting in line at the grocery store.
What do you notice? Every time I look up, it seems like everyone around me is on their phone. Sometimes texting, sometimes talking on the phone; but, usually just clicking from app to app to pass the time. Then, I usually look back down at my own phone - feeling guilty - but doing it anyway because everyone else is and I need a distraction. I think about all the times my mom would say things to me like “you probably have a headache from being on that phone all the time” in high school; and, while it annoyed me at the time, there’s probably some truth to that. I can’t help but wonder how it has really affected me growing up with technology and constant opportunities for distractions around me all the time. You might have wondered this too, so I decided to do the research so you don’t have to! Here’s what I found:
How Does it Affect Me?
- Some studies have shown that students not using their phone in the class wrote down 62% more information in their notes, were able to recall more information, and on average scored a full letter and half grade higher on an exam compared to those on their phones.
- Excessive phone and internet usage is also linked to anxiety, which is concerning when more than 45% of teenagers report being online “almost constantly.” College students like us are following similar trends.
- Not to mention, spending too much time on the phone is actually linked to feeling more lonely - the opposite of what it is supposed to be doing.
- Americans spend an average of 7 hours on technology. These numbers are increasing exponentially.
- Constant technology usage can also cause eye strain, headaches, fatigue, and decreased creativity.
Of course, with online learning and remote work, stepping away can be difficult (and impossible to completely avoid) and not all internet usage is bad. But it’s important for us to think about when it might be best to take a break from social media to rest. But what can we do to unplug?
Finding some time to disconnect, even for a little bit during the day, can improve your mood and overall health. This article gives a few great examples of how taking time to unplug can be beneficial. Taking time to unplug can mean different things for different people, whether it’s exercise, journaling, meditation, or spending time with friends and family. For more benefits about unplugging, be sure to check out the Press Pause campaign’s page for Unplugged, this month’s theme. Be sure to follow us on social media at @GVSURecWell for more information and giveaways related to unplugging. We encourage you to take some time to rest, relax, and find some time for yourself this month by spending some time unplugged.
By: Sofia Hessler, WIT Peer Educator
Work, Work, Work
Whether it’s a job, college classes, volunteering, or a combination of all three, it’s no secret that Americans love to work. In fact, we have become so invested and focused on the hustle and grind of everyday life that many of us hardly get a break. Taking breaks is even frowned upon in many workplaces and academic settings. You’ve probably heard the saying “the grind never stops” but this concept doesn’t only apply to those in the workforce; sometimes, it can be even harder for us as students to rest. There is always something we should be doing. Even if we finish all of our assignments, we are told that we should at least still be studying. While many of us remain focused on the grind and a constant hustle, Americans tend to suffer from extremely high rates of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. As college students in the U.S., rates of anxiety and depression have continued to increase over the past few years and these rates have changed drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a study from Texas A&M, researchers found that 71% of students are experiencing increased stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 outbreak (Son et al., 2020).
With many of us having to transition to working and learning from home, we have to ask ourselves, “what can I do to rest and take care of myself?” No, not just sleep, but rest. What do you do to unwind or disconnect from work?
How Can I Rest?
As Elizabeth Gilbert describes in Eat, Pray, Love, “Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma...Americans don’t really know how to do NOTHING.” When was the last time you were able to press pause on life and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee alone, or go for a walk with no purpose, or doodle and daydream? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves. Instead of replaying our to-do lists in our heads 24/7, we can take some time to get better at doing absolutely nothing. But what are the different types of rest and how do we do it?
Physical rest: Sleep of course! As college
students, we tend to struggle with this (especially around finals
week). Getting enough sleep (and maintaining a healthy sleep
schedule) is so important for our mental and physical health.
Research shows while college students are rarely getting enough of
it, we need it to maintain learning and memory skills. Creating a
sleep ritual can be helpful for some people as well (
more). Aside from sleeping, taking breaks throughout the
day, especially with spending the day sitting at our computers, restorative
yoga or stretching breaks can help relieve physical stress.
Mental rest: Begin with distinguishing activities
as rest or entertainment. Does this activity allow you to relax and
recharge? Or is it just entertainment to distract you? I know how
easy and tempting it is to spend hours mindlessly scrolling through
Instagram, Tik Tok, or Twitter, but it can also be overwhelming. We
constantly have ads thrown at us and it can become mentally
exhausting comparing ourselves to others on social media. Instead,
meditation and practicing mindfulness is a great way to rest and
relax. If you struggle to meditate on your own, there are lots of
free meditation resources on YouTube or free apps like HeadSpace (P.S. students
can get a year-long
premium subscription for $9.99 instead of the usual
$69.99!). Research shows that meditation can have positive
effects on both physical and mental health (
Emotional rest: It’s no secret that this year has
been emotionally draining on all of us, but you don’t need to deal
with it alone! Find a friend you can confide in or consider
counseling. GVSU’s Counseling Center offers a variety of counseling
services and resources.
Social rest: Take time to unplug for
just a few minutes a day. Even committing to not looking at your
phone in the first hour after you wake up may help disconnect and
let you recharge your mind. Or, take some time away from your phone
while walking to class, riding the bus, or eating. Whether you’re an
introvert or an extrovert, we can all benefit from unplugging once
in a while.
- Creative rest: Unplug and take a walk in nature or read a book you like. Mindlessly scrolling can not only take a social toll but a creative one as well (read more ). Not only does spending time in nature improve health, but it can improve creativity too!
Pressing Pause at GVSU: Rest. Relax. Refresh.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, RecWell is here to help! This year, we created the Press Pause campaign for all of us. We recognize that rest looks different for everyone. The goal of Press Pause is to provide resources and educate about the importance of rest and the different ways we can improve our health via rest. Each month of Press Pause will be dedicated to a different aspect of rest- and we want to interact with you! We will be posting a series of social media and blog posts, as well as hosting events throughout the year promoting rest. To interact with us, make sure to follow us on Instagram at @GVSURecWell, on our website, and check our blog posts! Be on the lookout for future updates, including a series of giveaways on our social media.
Above all, make time to “press pause” like you make time for work and commit to it. As we begin nearing the end of our long (and well deserved) holiday break, we encourage you to take some time to recharge and think about how you can incorporate rest into your everyday life. It’s not always easy and it often takes a conscious and intentional commitment to do absolutely nothing, but your health and happiness will thank you later.
By: Sofia Hessler, WIT Peer Educator
Source: Effects of COVID-19 on College Students’ Mental Health in the United States: Interview Survey Study