The Wingspan

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The Wingspan

The Wingspan

Overworked or lazy? Let’s get personal

There are only 24 hours in a day, seven days a week, and four weeks a month. Some days, these time limitations are the fuel I need to get through all of my work and achieve my goals. But other days, it feels like a ticking time bomb, paralyzing me in a state of terror. I have constantly been in these two phases for the past two year.;  I’m either in a state of nonstop work, and getting things done with no sleep, while other days I can’t find the energy to get out of bed or complete simple tasks. When I find myself in these ruts, I often wonder; am I just lazy or overworked? 

Even though they may appear the same, there are very distinct traits of both. According to Cleveland Clinic, feeling overworked can lead to burnout which is the emotional response to stress. It appears as a state of exhaustion and causes a decrease in motivation and productivity. Being lazy is completely different as it is a result of one’s inability to exert themselves to productivity. 

In my experience, there is often an emotional connection to the work that is causing the stress. Perhaps the work you are doing is for a larger goal or plays a crucial role in life goals. This connection and care is the biggest difference between laziness and being overworked. If one was simply lazy,  it may mean that the work they are doing has little meaning to them and would therefore not be addressed with urgency or care. When someone feels lazy, the work you do feels more like a small burden that, because of a lack of self discipline, never gets done. But, if you feel physically and emotionally exhausted accompanied by a crushing feeling of guilt when you fail to be productive, you are most likely burnt out. In Jeanette M. Bennett, a researcher who studies the effects of stress on health at the University of North Carolina’s interview with the New York Times in an article “Your Body Knows When It’s Burnt out, when people are stressed their bodies make  higher than normal levels of stress hormones that our bodies are not designed for. This can cause physical symptoms like insomnia and chronic exhaustion. This leads me to believe that being “lazy” cannot be a valid reason if your physical body and mental wellbeing take the hit. 

The issue  in defining if one’s feelings are ones or burnout or laziness is figuring out how to recover. In my experience, both require drastically different methods of recovery and  can lead to negative consequences if you treat your feelings with the wrong remedy. When you’re lazy, the solution that works for me lies in giving yourself a gentle push to work harder and develop good habits. But if you were burnout, I found it most effective to let it pass and to reduce stress levels. It is crucial in this time to treat yourself gently which is why if you attempt to treat your burnout like its laziness, you will simply fall in a never ending hamster wheel of dissatisfaction. This will likely cause worse mental health and exhaustion. 

So, a message from a fellow burnt out student to others; if you open your computer to work and the only energy you feel is in the tears that wells up in your eyes, go easy on yourself and take care of your wellbeing. It’s okay to take a break.


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