When to push yourself — and when to back off


When to push yourself — and when to back off

Most of us want to push ourselves, most of the time. Sounds admirable. Sounds like what your parents or teachers told you to do way back when.

But it’s not realistic. You’ll be relieved to know it’s also not always best for you.

The reason is simple: We aren’t static creatures. In other words, our energy and emotions have highs and lows. That means it serves us best not to have a one-size-fits-all approach to our lives.

A simple – and logical – way to go: If you feel good, take on a challenge, ride yourself hard. If you feel weary, take comfort, soothe yourself.

Here’s how this strategy can translate at work.

First, if you’re facing a deadline and have to get something done, then, unfortunately, you’re going to have to do it no matter how you feel (unless you’re sick, in which case, consider taking the day off).

Second, gauge your emotions, your mind and your body.

Most of massage therapist Stacy Payne’s clients come to her for relief long after they started being stressed.

“You kind of get used to that feeling,” says Payne, who helps run a health resource center for Unum. “It’s easy to ignore for some time.”

So don’t ignore how you feel – really try to assess it. Drawing your attention to the present moment can help.

Are you well rested? Energized? Then this is the time to tackle a big or a tough project. Don’t waste that verve being easy on yourself.

Are you sleep deprived? Worn out from an emotional situation? If so, this isn’t the time to be innovative or demanding of yourself. Do what needs to be done, and let your system run its course until you’ve recharged. This is a good opportunity to organize your desk, for example.

Some folks argue that when you feel weary or beaten down, surmounting something huge will turn your mood around. That’s true.

But it takes far more energy to get over a hill if you’re at an emotional or physical deficit than if you’re powered up. You’re better off nurturing yourself, which will fill your depleted reserves – and then taking on that daunting task. Odds are you’ll do even better at it than you would have in your worn-out state.


Journalist Mitra Malek has taught yoga regularly since 2006. She was a senior editor for Yoga Journal and still does research for the magazine on wellness, fitness and nutrition. Learn more at www.mitramalek.com.

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