How to make sure you’re not overexerting yourself in a virtual world

Alright folks, how’s it going? Rhetorical question since I can’t really hear your answer, but I’m hoping it’s good-ish.

So as I was thinking over what I should speak to y’all about; I came to the realization that what better time to talk about how to manage all that stress than when you’re living where you’re working/studying/attending school, right?

I’m not going to lie, I don’t know about y’all but navigating this whole virtual world has been quite hard for me, and let me tell you why.

But before I do, let me preface this by saying I’d like to think I’m quite self-aware. That being said, I do think I’m a workaholic and maybe that’s why it’s been so tough on me, but I also think workaholic or not – even just as a student or employee, it’s difficult to know where to draw the line in a virtual world because well, let’s face it – this is all super new to us.

I have days where I’m practically working every waking minute of the day (yes, in the washroom too – it’s a good time to check my emails). So much so, that I don’t realize I’m probably working longer than I need to and than I should.

With work and school moving online, setting boundaries are hard. I know this, you probably know this and if you don’t – consider this an early warning; maybe you can get your ducks in a row before the non-stop work mode kicks in.

So here are my top five tips on how to make sure you’re not overexerting yourself

1. Use timetables, alarms, time recording apps – you get my drift…

a laptop with a clock on the screen

Monitor how much time you’re spending on your work and don’t work more hours than you’re supposed to. Now I know sometimes you want to impress your boss or you’d like to get a head start on homework, both of which are great, but only if it’s not a regular occurrence. When you live where you work, the line between your home life and your work life gets blurred. It’s easy to keep checking your emails and responding to them, it’s easy to say yes to a task past your hours and so on and so forth. You need to be able to set aside the number of hours you are meant to work and once that time has passed, say goodbye to your work phone and emails. Everything else can wait till tomorrow.

2. Learn to say no

This ties into my previous point a little but learn to say no. Again, there are probably the special occasions where your teacher might ask you to do something for extra credit or your boss might ask you to lend a hand with something, but these can’t be regular occurrences. You have to be able to value your time, your self-worth and also your downtime. If you’re worried about upsetting someone, remember this: you are well within your rights to turn down anything outside of your required expectations. If you ever take something on, make sure you have the time and space for it – both mentally, physically and emotionally.

3. Try to do one task that signifies your day has ended

coffee and books in bed

I read this tip in an article somewhere a long time ago when the pandemic first hit and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Do one thing that signifies that your day has ended; whether it’s leaving your study/work room, switching off your work phone or even taking a bath. Having that one sign will subconsciously get you into the habit of making that distinction between school and home. It’ll also probably stop your gears from running over the million things you still have to do on your never-ending to-do list.

4. Listen to your body

a male with his eyes closed looking tired

This part is a little tricky, but try to be self-aware. Recognize the signs your body is giving you when it’s telling you that you have reached your limit. Whether that’s an increase or decrease in appetite, being more cranky or moody or shutting yourself off from others – we all have different tell-tale signs, so make sure you’re keeping an eye out for yours. Sometimes it might not even be your body that’s exhausted, but rather your mind, keep an eye out for those signs too like fatigue, headaches and eye-strain, to name a few. Your body and mind are on your side, so if you’re getting signs that you’re burnt out, you probably are. Remember, your body is your home and you need to make an active effort to take care of it.

5. Ask for help

two hands reaching out to each other

It can sometimes feel nerve wracking or anxiety inducing to have to ask for extensions or time off, but it’s a global pandemic – trust me, your teacher/boss/supervisor will understand. If you find yourself needing some extra time or help, or just needing to shut off for a few days altogether, reach out to a superior that you trust and communicate that with them. Chances are, they’ve probably been there at some point over the last few months and not only will they be able to give you that extra help that you need, they might even be the thing that gets you through it.

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