Why does our health take a backseat?

As young people, the majority of our life is spent in education, working towards the ultimate goal of getting a good job and earning the most amount of money possible.  It is like we are brainwashed to believe that this is the most important element of our existence, which results in us being all about the grind, but this is not how life was intended to be.  What about our emotional, physical and mental health, which seems to take a backseat in our bid to be the richest or most successful we can?

It is great to see individuals strive for success and put in the work to make themselves the best they can be, but at what cost?  Loneliness?  Break downs?  Insanity?  Collapsing?  Depression?  Substance abuse?  Stress related illnesses?  Is any of that really worth all the money in the world or a high status?

I was speaking to a friend who will be going into her final year of university, and is also planning to work full-time.  She already knows that she is going to be pulling all-nighters and working crazy hours, but she is adamant about continuing to work full-time, because she has bills to pay.  I was immediately worried about the effect that this would have on her health, as I don’t want her to run herself ragged, but she assured me that she was used to it.

I can’t comprehend why she – or any young person – should have to get used to this level of work, just so that they can pay their way whilst studying.  With the increase in pricing – especially house prices, which is the dampening the chances of our generation being able to buy a property in the future – and inflation, there needs to be more support in place for young people; but more importantly, there needs to be a change in the mindset of our society.

It does not make sense for us to run ourselves into the ground in a bid to obtain a degree or make money, if we are just going to drop dead afterwards and therefore, not reap any of the benefits.  Just look at the case of the young intern who died last year after working crazy hours – all of his hard work only resulted in tragedy.

Although his case is extreme, it highlights the extreme pressure that young people are under to become high achievers and earn a substantial wage.  However, what is worse is that this same pressure and mindset trickles down into our older years, which leads to us working stupid hours and putting a family life on the back burner, because having people we love in our life is simply not as important as making money.

There are some young people who spend so much time working and studying and making money, that they have next to no life and a lack of social skills, which are elements of our life that we take for granted.  Socialising and feeling loved are basic human needs that better our emotional health.  They need to become a higher priority in our lives, which in a way starts with our education systems that need to have a stronger focus on emotional health, understanding one another and the social element of school life.

Education is not only about gaining skills and knowledge that will help you in your future careers, but it is also about developing people skills and gaining life experience.  Educators also have a duty of care to their students, which means that there should be a greater emphasis on the health of students, both emotionally and physically while going through the process of education.

I remember being in my second year of Sixth Form and working towards my interview at London College of Fashion, which meant that every spare moment was spent reading fashion magazines, sketching and creating designs to bulk up my portfolio.  When I got to university, I spent all my time obsessing over and carrying out work for my degree – apart from when I would stop to eat or rest on the Sabbath – which resulted in me having dreams about my projects.

On both of these occasions, I left no time for myself, which led to me feeling run down and empty inside.  I felt depressed and emotionally drained, because I was putting absolutely everything I had into my career prospect, and you know something, it was not worth it.  My health suffered and I no longer want to be a fashion designer.

Hard work is important and in this world, money is essential for our survival, but we need to get out of this mindset that money and success mean everything, while our health is just a minor consideration.  We should definitely strive to be the best we can be and earn enough money to make a living, but we also need to set aside time for ourselves and our loved ones; and most of all, ensure that our health is not taking a backseat.

Image by Derrick Tyson and used under Creative Commons license.

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