The day you relax is the day you die

15:05



The title of this post is somewhat of a saying in our family. We can't relax. We are chronically incapable of it. Even on our family holidays, we would be up and out of the hotel first thing in the morning to find our next big adventure (and a few shopping malls along the way, of course), and lying by the pool was never considered a good way to spend the day.

When I was a sleepy teenager, I hated it. I brushed off the Sunday 7am wake up calls to sleep until midday and have a lazy breakfast before tackling my homework, but as I've grown up and realised how quickly time passes, I have found myself adopting a lot of the same habits that my parents have.

I like to be up early, I normally wake up naturally by 8am if I don't have an alarm set, and I like to be in bed at a reasonable time (it's gotten as early at a 10pm bedtime now, which my nocturnal high school self would have balked at).

If something is playing on my mind or worrying me, sleep comes late and with difficulty - I have an inability to 'switch off' sometimes and I find myself getting up and watching TV until the feeling of tiredness is overwhelming. I lie awake at night and I think about stupid things like falling ill again, my company failing, and tasks I need to get done.

I've never been able to just 'turn off' those feelings and relax regardless - and I probably think that's a good thing because it means I can work more or less anywhere, anytime, as long as I can put my mind to things and I have a laptop.

But the chronic feeling of 'I need to be doing something' and the guilt I feel when I do 'relax' for a weekend puts me in an awkward place when I'm faced with illness. I am not referring to collapsed lungs now, but the small, ordinary illnesses that never would have bothered me before but now seem that much scarier on top of my condition.

I got ill last week, and despite not being able to see straight or even walk without buckling over in pain, I still turned up to a prior engagement and today, I attended a conference and despite having to leave halfway through the keynote speech to sit on the floor of the toilets and retch, I still felt an overwhelming sense of guilt and frustration when I accepted that another day of bed rest was what I needed.

I think it's important to keep things in perspective, and this is what I have been trying to do this week (when I have SO MUCH to get done but am incapable of doing so) and accept that taking the day off NOW might mean a swifter recovery and increased productivity later. In the start-up community particularly, the badge of honour is the length of your days. Sleeping in the office or late night software development sprints are commonplace and it's easy to feel inadequate if your hours don't match up.

But working smarter and not harder might mean that a full 72 hours of brain numbing television and hot water bottle cuddling are just what the doctor ordered, and will let you get back to work when you are fully re-energised, rather than forcing your way through a few days feeling sluggish and miserable.

So to conclude, take care of yourself first and your business will still be there for you in the morning, but take it from someone who has been to the extreme end of the ill health spectrum, feeling 100% will benefit you in the long run more than putting in a poor performance at any meeting or presentations you have.

So to all of you suffering from the same winter stomach bug as me - whack on the new Big Bang Theory and try and relax!

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