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Feeling Burnt-out and Overwhelmed—the Side Effects of Over-achieving

This blog is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be taken as one.

If you’ve always been the over-achieving type, always excelling, acing, loved by the teachers, and all that jazz, there comes a time in life when you stop running and suddenly realise how tired you are and have been, and a lot of the time, it isn’t easy to get back to running right away. If you’ve ever felt like that or do feel like that, welcome to the club, I 100% get you.

I came across the terms instant gratification and delayed gratification during my sociology course in O-Levels a couple of years back, and basically, instant gratification is when people want their desires to be fulfilled right when they realise them while delayed gratification involves resisting desires with the mindset of obtaining something even better with time.

If you’re anything like me, your life probably revolved or revolves around the former—do something good and you immediately get a pat on the back, do your homework quicker than everyone else and you get plus points, ace your exam and you get to ask for something special, and the list goes on and on… And the issue with having your desires satiated so quickly is that you set the bar higher and higher for yourself every time until it feels impossible to complete even the simplest of tasks because you’ve made them so difficult for yourself. For instance, instead of being happy and satisfied with myself after cleaning up my cupboard and thus, checking off a task from my to-do list, I’d be counting all the things I’d need to do with that, because if I’m doing the cupboard, then why not do the side table drawers? If I’m organising the side table drawers, why not do the dressing table as well? If I’m doing all of those things, then only my desk and tv trolley are left, so let’s add that too… and so, before I’ve even done anything, I’m already exhausted thinking about all the things I need to do, so I don’t even bother starting. 

Now, this isn’t a sob story or an end-of-the-world situation as much as it may feel like it—it’s actually pretty normal and understandable because when you’ve literally set perfection or the absolute best of the best as an everyday standard for yourself, you 1) can’t always achieve that no matter how hard you try, which is when you 2) beat yourself up for it and feel like you’re not good enough or didn’t try hard enough, which ultimately leads to 3) not appreciating or acknowledging all the effort you constantly put into everything you do, which inevitably ends up with 4) burning out quicker over all kinds of tasks, big and small.

So, how do you deal with yourself when even getting out of bed feels like the most tedious task? Well, it’s easier said than done, but you need to take it slow with yourself—take breaks when you need to, let simple tasks remain simple, put your mental health first, take out me-time often, engage with people that make you happy, acknowledge and appreciate your effort even when you don’t achieve your desired goals, and be patient with yourself—all of which will hopefully lead to the final goal of re-wiring a brain that’s always been fed that anything less than 100% is imperfect and unacceptable, which is just messed up really. 

If you feel like your mental health is declining and you can’t seem to help yourself, never fear speaking up or reaching out because if that’s still considered taboo in the 21st century, are we even progressing as a society?

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