Four strategies to prevent work exhaustion

My body is starting to get used to waking up early. Since a week ago, I have been rising up from bed an hour before my alarm rings. I like it. I like the silence and chill of early morning; it’s conducive to creativity. It also helps me do more writing.

‘Rest’ has been at the back of my mind lately—because I lack it. Some days, however, I oddly don’t want to rest. I love my work insofar as I wish I can teach, write, and read as much as I want to (and balance it with life and relationships) without getting tired. But even machines crash. Even God rested on the seventh day.

Other days, I yearn for rest during ungodly hours and get pretty scared of the cumulative effects of wear and tear. I’ve e-met one of Simon and Schuster’s editors during a BIO event and I could tell from the way he tilted his head backward and squinted his eyes through his thick eyeglasses that his decades of hard work had already taken a toll on him.

Since I work almost seven days a week, I am always on the hunt for strategies that can help me sustain energy. So far, Dale Carnegie’s tips from How to Stop Worrying and Start Living have been most helpful, but I currently can apply solely four of them. These are plain and simple, but very effective:

1. Sit comfortably.

The ditto mentioned book discussed how magnificent brain’s endurance is when working and receiving information. The truth is it doesn’t get tired. At least not easily. The brain does its business 24 hours a day, even during sleep, whether we like it or not. That means cerebral tasks aren’t supposed to be tiring. What makes it tiring is our position and disposition while doing cerebral work.

While working, we can relax our shoulders instead of keeping them stiff. Relax our brows instead of furrowing them. Lean on a pillow and sit comfortably instead of sitting upright. Our minds can be on ‘work mode’ even when our body doesn’t look like it.

2. Do power naps.

A wise way to use rest periods is doing power naps. When I want to recharge, nothing beats shutting down my whole body for 15 minutes after working nonstop for long hours. For me, 15 minutes is just right; 10 minutes is too short, and 30 minutes gives me headache.

It’s impossible to do power naps without an alarm, but I make sure I put my phone beyond reach after setting the timer lest I end up using up the 15 minutes for browsing social media. It is very effective, but it requires some form of letting go to do power naps; when I’m in a roll, I just can’t stop working.

3. Change your workspace from time to time.

I do two ways to ‘change’ my workspace: either I redesign it, or I look for a different place to do work. Our minds are in constant search for novelty. If you’re a visual person like me, I’m sure new things do not only refresh your eyes but also your soul. I am not particularly good at rearranging furniture around my room, but I can refurbish a little corner by brightening it up with colors in the form of paintings, art and crafts, and knick knacks.

When refashioning my workspace doesn’t work anymore, I look for coffee shops or restaurants with a cozy ambiance and big windows—in short, chic cafes and hotel lounges. I like anywhere naturesque, too, but it has to have a good-legged table and a comfortable chair. Anything less than these doesn’t work for my inner artist. I know it’s costly, and that’s why I don’t look for a different workspace on a regular basis.

4. Pray.

I cannot work without praying first. I believe any form of service requires God’s grace—grace to satisfy what the client really needs, grace to go the extra mile for the client, and grace to remember my purpose when the work starts to get taxing. Self-giving is draining; hence, the one who gives has to have a bottomless well of strength.

Richard Byrd, an aviator and explorer who had received the highest honor in United States after leading several expeditions to Antarctica and Arctic, once said: “[Human beings have] deep wells of strength that are never used.”

These strategies are helpful when I am tied to work—meaning, when I cannot just leave work. But I admit these are solely quick remedies to exhaustion, or better yet, preventive measures for burnout. It cannot recharge me to 100%. It’s still best for me to leave some days ‘sacred’ for rest, when I can give full attention to my loved ones, have a fun alone time, and drop everything work-related.

Keeping our minds and hands off of work for a day or two is essential, and it should be okay. You and I do not only deserve rest, anyway—we need it. You and I do not only deserve quality life—we need it.


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