Imagine a typical school day. You spend the first seven hours of your day deciphering formulas, memorizing the periodic table, and analyzing Shakespeare. And before you know it, the clock proudly displays everyone’s most cherished time: 3:25 p.m.
You rush to make your way out of class just to spend another two hours busy enduring exhausting physical activity, pursuing an artistic passion, volunteering in your community, or working in an after-school job. Maybe, your afternoon is free and you get home earlier than usual. Still, your burnt-out mind might keep itself occupied by doing something it deems “productive,” like cleaning your room. By the time you’ve settled into the comfort of your room, your time has become increasingly limited.
At this point, the first thing we at The Vanguard often want to do is lay down and scroll through our phones, releasing ourselves into an endless internet rabbit hole–essentially doing “nothing.” But we can’t. We have five subjects of homework due the next day and a couple of longer-term tests or projects that we’ve set aside, lurking in the back of our minds.
In a perfect world, each of the five subjects of homework follow the school’s guideline and take 45 minutes to complete—totaling just under 4 hours. But let’s be honest, how often does that actually happen? Our homework loads are often unpredictable, but they are reliably a source of exhaustion. And the extra hour you may have committed to an extracurricular makes it even more unmanageable. Nonetheless, when you’ve finally finished your day’s work, you are left with two options: working on a project due a week from now (the “productive” option), or just taking a break (the “lazy” option).
With the growing pressure from society for teens to keep themselves busy, many of us have found ourselves in a complicated relationship with that word, “break.” Maintaining a steady work-life balance has turned into more of a challenge than a routine. When so much of our time is devoted to schoolwork, sports, and other extracurriculars, it’s hard to justify taking time to unplug from our busy lives. The thought of doing so corresponds closely with thoughts of laziness, negligence, or “slacking off.”
But are we actually being “lazy,” or is that just something we have internalized throughout high school? When we do have the opportunity to take a step back from our packed schedules, the feeling of not doing anything just doesn’t sit right with us. The fatigue caused by our lack of rest is regularly overpowered by the unsettling feeling of guilt caused by simply not doing anything. So, even when we take time off, we don’t feel we deserve to fully unwind and de-stress. We struggle to shut off our minds and shut down the constant flashing light reminding us of a hundred other things we could be doing at that very moment.
It’s time to change how we think about rest. While it’s easy to get caught up in the endless chain of work, taking time to rest is productive. It re-energizes our bodies and minds, which leads to better focus and concentration.
Take advantage of the downtime in your schedule by doing “nothing,” whatever that may look like for you: anything from staring at your ceiling to taking an ice cream break. Possibly some meditation? Your choice.
Our heavy, and sometimes out of control, workloads are an unchangeable part of our typical school days. We know it’s easier said than done, but we hope you can find some solace in the fact that many of us struggle to do “nothing,” even when met with such an opportunity. Together, let’s put the guilt of downtime to rest.