Dear Emuna,

My problem isn’t with my husband or my children or my parents or my in-laws. And I’m too young for my kids to be married and bring me difficult machutanim. My problem is with me. I’m always overwhelmed, and every task feels like slogging through mud. I want to be productive and lead a meaningful life but I’m just always tired and burning the candle at both ends. Any advice would be appreciated.

Just Plumb Worn Out

Dear Worn Out,

On the one hand, my first instinct is just to say, “Welcome to reality.” I was just discussing with my husband how tired I am (!) and how frequently when I ask my young married daughters how they are, their first response is “Tired!” So perhaps the first step is not to name being tired as something negative and just accept it as the price for living a full life.

I have a family member who frequently tells me I look or sound tired in a tone that makes it seem like an accusation, like if I was living properly that would not be my state. I don’t think that’s true, but I don’t think it’s a contest either. Studies show we need our sleep for our health, and we are not “better” people if we get fewer hours sleep – especially if we use those extra wake hours to surf the web or binge-watch our favorite shows.

But even if we are “productive” it’s probably still unhealthy and compulsive. I remember a story about the Chofetz Chaim discouraging boys in yeshiva from staying up all night learning. While that may sound like the ideal and something to aspire to, he saw it as the workings of the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, convincing us to stay up all night one time so that we would be completely unable to function the next day.

I think the real challenge is in how we define “productive” and “meaningful”. Are we only productive when we get up really early and go to sleep really late? How about if we follow Benjamin Franklin’s key to being healthy, wealthy and wise by getting up early and going to bed early? Yes, some of our friends may be up later but, like I said, it’s not a contest. The goal is to use our time well, not to use our time up!

I always marvel that when I am going to sleep (early here on the west coast) some of my east coast friends are also just getting into bed – only it’s three hours later for them. “I don’t know how they function,” I say to my husband. Either they need much less sleep or maybe they really aren’t functioning so well! If we budget our time well and take care of our health and focus on using our waking hours to connect to the Almighty and be kind to His children, then we are leading meaningful and productive lives, whatever time we go to sleep. If we are up many hours, but we are too tired to function then what have we accomplished? The yetzer hara has indeed won.

I would suggest more sleep and fewer tasks – but do the tasks you have with commitment, energy and determination. Let me know how it goes. And whether you are energized or not, even when you are having a more tired day, it always helps to say ‘The Almighty should help me.”