“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” – Benjamin Franklin
It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed in life. We have so many responsibilities and so much is expected of us that it is easy for us to forget to take time to take care of ourselves. We sacrifice so much time for others with so little concern for our own well-being that we end up hurting ourselves and even others because of this. When we burn ourselves out, we become significantly less able to give our ‘all’ to the things in life that require our best.
Importance of Sleep
How can you be expected to help your friends and family to the best of your ability if you have weeks’ worth of work piled up; and how can you be expected to finish all of this work, while giving it your maximum effort, if you haven’t slept in three days?
Our efforts are in direct correlation with our mental and physical states. Meaning that ‘working hard’ is a relative term. I may feel like I’m working my hardest on the paper I stayed up the several days writing, but just because I feel like I’m working hard doesn’t mean I’m able to give it my best after missing several nights’ sleep. More specifically, a lack of sleep will lead to a reduction in your attention and concentration, reaction time, decision-making ability, and your memory.
A lack of sleep isn’t the only thing that affects your ability to perform and serve others – stress is another enormous factor of our mental and physical health. We tend to put so many things on our plates at one time that we become overwhelmed and have trouble concentrating on one thing knowing that there are ten others things we have to do.
Stress can affect a number of our faculties, such as: headaches, muscle tension or pain, fatigue, and even sleep deprivation. It affects our moods and behaviors anxiousness, restlessness, irritability, outbursts, and social withdrawal. So, how can we be expected to operate at optimal levels if we are in anyone of these states? The answer is of course we wouldn’t do very well – certainly not the best that we can do.
I know that when I’m very stressed about something the last thing I want to do is collect more problems to pile on top of the ones I already have. This isn’t being insensitive, either – it’s being realistic. I understand that when I’m stressed out I have trouble focusing on anything more than the problem I’m facing. While in this condition it’s difficult, if not impossible, to give others my best and the time and attention they deserve.
This is not a call to ignore others’ problems or to be uncouth when someone presents you with their difficulties. It is merely an admission that we are not ourselves and not at our best when we haven’t helped ourselves first.
Next time you find yourself faced with the decision to help another before you’ve helped yourself, weigh your options and ask yourself: can I really give this person my all when I, myself, am not at my all?