We all know the feeling. You come back from a long day at work, or a series of back-to-back lectures and tutorials, and there’s nothing you’d rather do than curl up on the couch to watch some trash TV. For dinner, you can barely summon enough energy to create a meal more sophisticated than eating bread from the bag, dipping it in anything runnier than bread.
Coming home even to this seems like a grossly unreasonable burden… so does the thought of then having even the slightest motivation to go out for a run or walk, hit the gym, go out to see a friend, or read a book. In addition to this, even the idea of partaking in such an activity can re-trigger whatever stress you’ve been feeling all day, and you end up thinking that if you have to go out and do just one more thing in this day, your stress is just going to compound even further.
There are very good reasons, however, why you should actually make the time for such an activity rather than just resign yourself to a night in with a jar of Nutella and an episode of The Bachelor.
When my health was at its worst, I made little to no effort to prioritise getting involved in team sports and reading books – the two activities in life that I enjoy and get the most value out of. By ignoring these things, I feel strongly that my depression remained at its then low levels for longer than it potentially could have.
But eventually I did get back into them… I rejoined my old indoor soccer team, and signed up for a mixed netball team. I tried to cajole my old school mates into doing a book club (although it eventually fell through).
What I found, by re-engaging, was that I had greater levels of physical, emotional and spiritual energy than I had experienced in too long a time. And, more importantly, I realised that by facilitating a feeling that I had earned my sleep for each night, I was able to recharge my batteries and wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to face whatever was coming.
Making time rather than finding time for such a balance in your weekly schedule offers you stimulation in aspects of your life that work and study may not be able to satisfy. By tapping into those extra-curriculars that may have fallen by the wayside, we give ourselves another layer of protection for our health and well-being that will make us more resilient at work and in class.
I understand that many people would feel like there are simply not enough hours in the day to set aside an hour in which you can work up a sweat or sink your teeth into an intellectual pursuit. But, by doing exactly this, I have found that I am much better placed to understand what my stress triggers are, which helps me navigate through them or negate them altogether.
Making time for this is therefore not only wise professionally (as it make us more productive and efficient by reducing our chances of burnout), but it has the added benefit of meaning we are kind to ourselves. There is a feeling of guilt that can be associated with taking an hour to have some personal time, rather than reading an extra chapter of your textbook or responding to a client’s email.
You may feel that you haven’t earned the right to enjoy such an indulgence (which is in fact a necessity). But having that time where we are ingratiated in the personal sphere offers a release that we otherwise wouldn’t have.
Of course, an occasional night of gluttonous extravagance that ultimately serves only to result in a setback for your ideal summer body, can be an emotional treat that brings pleasure and comfort. But common sense dictates that the more sensible and physically healthier options will provide the more lasting, holistic results for our wellness. It no doubt requires discipline; but the flow-on effects will ultimately leave a bigger smile on your face.
Jerome Doraisamy is the author of The Wellness Doctrines for Law Students and Young Lawyers.