On The Road To Burnout

Featured Illustration: Creative Bloq


There is a statement I have become all too familiar with: “There are two types of people in quarantine: one person who has accomplished so much, and another person who regrets not being the former.” 

When the chaos commenced in March, my early days were spent scrolling on social media comparing myself to the people who had started their own organizations or created side hustles, won amazing awards, or were 20x prettier than me. Fortunately, I was able to get out of that self-deprecating funk when school work reconvened online and I began to explore various fields of interest. 

One was this very action I am doing right now: writing. Without physically having friends to rant to or discuss issues with, my mind was bogged with thoughts from how this pandemic has impacted my life and the progression of social injustice to why The Alchemist is the best book ever. When I began to write, I was given a medium to express my deepest thoughts, and when I started publishing my work, I was given a medium to amplify my voice.

Other activities I have fallen in love with include data research pertaining to COVID-19, podcasting, and binging lots (and lots) of old shows on Disney+ because I am a real sucker for nostalgia. 

When this momentum began of school work, research, writing, and everything in between, I was hooked. I became obsessed with spending every minute of my day consuming and producing content. If I was watching a movie, I may as well do some homework questions, too. While eating, I could just read or listen to a podcast instead of enjoying my meal silently or reflecting on my day. My life evolved into a form of hyper-productivity where every minute couldn’t be spent without some form of intentional work. 

Yet, this was only the beginning. When summer arrived, I enrolled myself in 2 courses, one for July and one for August. I thought I may as well do it if I have the time. While this reasoning is understandable and maybe even commemorable, I had deprived myself of a 2-month break from structured education. I was going to be in school for 12 months straight immediately followed with 10 more from the new school year. 

My friends slowly realized the spiral I was taking myself down. I was the textbook definition of approaching burnout, as I had become addicted to constantly working without time for reflection or to catch a break. 

Some reading this may have no idea what I am referring to — how can constantly being motivated to get work done be negative? But for those who understand and may even relate, the workaholic nature is a spiral to disaster. 

Through encouragement from my friends, I understand it is time for change. Ironically, for a hyper-productive person, I started to read Atomic Habits, a book centered on using micro-changes in the present for macro-changes in the future. Journaling my thoughts, as I have read about the 1% rule or removing the concept of goals, has brought the understanding that success doesn’t come with overburdening oneself, but working strategically. 

Working smarter with shorter timeframes, not harder and for prolonged durations, is my new 2020 motto.

Haleema Ahmed

Reader | Writer

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