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Productivity and Mental Health

 Breaking the cycle of toxic productivity

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It is a fact that self-discipline is key to productivity. Waiting to feel motivated to get things done is usually ineffective. Getting started, regardless of whether we feel like it or not, is usually what makes people more productive. However, getting stuck in this mindset and pushing ourselves to the limits is very easy.

When does productivity become toxic?

On some days, we get up early, work, socialise, cook, gym and get all our tasks done. Then there are days we manage to only get the main ones done and do not feel like doing anything extra. Even though, we have a huge to-do list for that day. On those days, we tend to feel guilty and beat ourselves up for not being productive enough or not doing as much as we had expected to do. There is absolutely nothing wrong with expecting to be productive. However, the issue is the constant expectation that turns into an unrealistic standard and life model. 

“i have this productivity anxiety
that everyone else is working harder than me
and i’m going to be left behind
cause I’m not working fast enough
long enough
and i’m wasting my time”

— Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur perfectly describes this toxic cycle of productivity in her poem “productivity anxiety”. Each line illustrates the thoughts and emotions we experience in this cycle: stress, comparison to others, fear based on unrealistic expectations, and negative thoughts that end up affecting our self-esteem. Those are typically good indications that you may need to pause and reflect.

Finding balance

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Being constantly busy and doing something “exciting” or “productive” is so over-glamorised nowadays, that we feel ashamed and guilty on the days we do not do as much. This is not an encouragement for anyone to leave their responsibilities behind, however, it is important to train our minds to be more aware of the pressure we put on ourselves in daily life.

Tips for overcoming productivity anxiety

  • Realising. Being unaware of how you feel can be dangerous. It’s what usually causes burnout. Taking a moment to reflect on your thoughts, emotions, and the physical sensations they evoke brings your awareness to your state of anxiety.
  • Accepting. Allowing and accepting whatever you experience without denying or blaming yourself is crucial. It leaves space for positive change.
  • Be honest with yourself. Asking yourself a few simple questions can give you a more realistic approach to the situation. This will help downregulate the negative thoughts. Here are a few questions you could ask yourself:

    1. Is this anxiety necessary? 
    2. Were these goals and expectations realistic for today/for the week?
    3. Do these thoughts occur from comparing myself to others?
    4. Does my productivity define me as a person in any way?
  • Allow yourself to do nothing. Being active is important for overall wellbeing, but simply “being” and not doing anything sometimes, is essential to reset.

Having unproductive days is completely normal, healthy, and sometimes even necessary. Taking time for yourself is a form of self-care that needs to be normalised and implemented into our lives to avoid burnout and other mental health issues. 

Written by women's health

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