Over Thanksgiving break, I returned from my on-campus housing to my home in southeast Michigan. It was over these five or so days, that I can say I truly relaxed; this was the first time in months that I have been able to feel that way.
My best friend and I caught up after not physically seeing each other since the summer. My pets got to fall asleep on top of me while we laid in bed together. My mom and I got stitches in our sides as we cracked each other up over nothing. This period was easily the most blissful and most nurturing time I have spent within recent memory.
It was on the ride back to campus that I got to thinking about the implications of my feelings regarding this break. I found that the realizations I made while processing my time could be of value not only to me, but to others.
I consider myself a person with a solid work ethic. I know I will get things done and I pride myself on doing those things well. I know I’m not the only one, as a good work ethic is generally considered an American value.
Despite the few that suggest this value is dying in the American spirit, I still consider the mindset of a good work ethic to be alive and well. We continue to work extended hours, take few work-free breaks and take little time off. In fact, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, Americans work more hours than a majority of their peer nations.
While our strong work ethic contributes to achievement and innovations, both to us as individuals and as a collective nation, there is always trouble in excess. In 2019, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a study analyzing the effects overworking has on health. The study found correlations between overworking and medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, fatigue and occupational injuries.
Beyond the negative effect on physical health, overworking can drastically interfere with mental health. Physiological stress, depression and anxiety are among the mental tolls that can be taken when one is subjected to overworking.
For these reasons, it is important to segregate our work life from our home life. This is something, however, that is easier said than done given our current context. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the American labor force to discover how much work could be completed from home. Now, not only are Americans working hard, but the line between work and home became even blurrier than it had been before.
Part of what made my time at home so relaxing was the physical separation from myself and my work space. While I could make the choice to continue to work, there was nothing pushing on me to continue working, so I didn’t. I was able to release myself from my emails and my Google Docs to experience life with the people I love.
While I cannot always afford myself the time that the Thanksgiving break gave me, I can always find a way to give myself the physical separation I needed. The world didn’t end when I stepped away from my laptop. Buildings continued to stand when I turned the notifications off for my email.
Everything I had to work on before break still exists today, but now I am in the mindset to approach them. Just as I know I am not alone when I say I am a hard worker, I know I am not alone in needing some occasional distance from my work.