Friday, July 13, 2007

A Balancing Act

I'm not good at having a balanced life. I tend to work obsessively for months, and then get burnt out and exhausted, which gets me either physically sick or just worn out mentally. So for every three months of productivity, I would have a month of complete exhaustion: migraines, severe colds, and just plain ol' physical malaise rising to the level of Proustian indolence. This is not good, not good for me, and not a good way to be a practicing academic. And I'm way too young to be so exhausted and to have the heart rate of a coma patient. So I've been trying to change. This means doing more and not less, oddly enough.

I thank The Roomie in part for this--living with someone makes me more accountable in many good ways. It's not a matter of being more social, but being a bit healthier, which makes me more social by accident. It's nice having someone to talk to. And she has some good habits. I'm trying to get into bed before 1 am, even though I'm generally an insomniac night owl. I'm also trying to rise by 7:30 am. And even though it's a time suck, I find cooking to improve my health and mental balance, and cooking means friends over for dinner--an added social benefit. And I've added exercise to the routine--not long meandering walks like I used to, but something the health freaks that abound here in Liberal College Town call "cardio," which can be done in groups along one of our town's many trails--again, the psychosocial support + tangible health benefit. I'm trying to read something light before bed each night, like my New Yorker or a short story.

It almost seems too much--but the alternative, too little--except work--wasn't working out for me. There was a great Prawfsblawg thread on this, here and here. It's not so much that I need a superhuman schedule or "supportive spouse" to do everything for me so that all I do is work. Well, I suppose that would be nice.

But I think what I really need to do is add more non-work things to my schedule so that I can sustain the productivity year round and not suffer from exhaustion (or worse, ennui). It was getting to the point where I thought a visit to the doctor would take too much time, so I didn't go. So, after months of suffering (I thought I had mono or a thyroid condition, it was so bad) later, I finally went to the doctor early this summer--and it turns out severe allergies contributed to the migraines and blackout afternoon sleeping patterns. Now I'm on Allegra! I'm not as exhausted anymore. Anti-histamines + exercise + healthy diet (mostly vegetarian) + sleep = more hours of productivity when it counts, from about 8:30-6 pm.

Maybe it isn't so much that I need to work day and night and freak out so much about it all--indeed, there were times when I just stared blankly at the screen, unable to come up with anything good or interesting. I wasted a lot of time "working day and night." I think I need a good solid block of hours that are academically productive--and spend the rest of the day tending to my physical, psychosocial, and mental/emotional needs.

I wonder that this lesson comes to me at the age of 26 (soon 27). If only I had started doing this earlier.

It's midnight! Time to read a short story and prepare for a new day.