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Gorilla Mental Health: A toxic relationship with productivity 

Alyssa Tyler copy editor 

My relationship with productivity is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it gives me the motivation to have three jobs while in school, to be a president of an organization, and to try and find time to prepare for graduate school. Although, on the other hand the idea of a ‘rest day’ seems like admitting failure. And failure is not an option. In the society we live in today, rest days are not productive, but at the same time, when we are nothing but productive, we only have one option: burnout.  

Being productive in my eyes is not having any time for yourself. You should be running from place to place to place. Trying to get anything and everything done. Any time spent with friends, family, or even relaxing on my phone (sometimes even reading), there is a small (or very large) part of me that feels guilt and anxiety, because of all the things that I could be and arguably should be doing. While I know I cannot be the only one that struggles with this, the idea of being ‘lazy’ I feel is a common one. It’s hard to find your own way to cope with trying to be your best and avoiding a massive academic burnout.  

According to the O’Connor Professional Group, academic burnout specifically is defined as “period of mental, emotional, or physical exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes towards oneself and others.” They also explain that it is most often found when someone is “performing at a high level until stress and tension, especially from extreme and prolonged physical or mental exertion or overburdened workload, take their toll.”  

How can one avoid this at all? Is it even possible to? For some, such as myself, when someone has such an intense fear of being a failure, taking a break seems almost impossible. But throughout the past year, I have worked to try and find a better and healthier relationship with productivity. These are some of the things that I have found to help myself.  

  1. Having a strict balance of home life and work life. For example, I refuse to do any work in my home. I will always leave to go to a library or a coffee shop. 
  1. When you are ‘being productive’ be productive. If I say I’m going to study or work, I will make sure that I do not touch my phone during that entire time. That way, I cannot try to convince myself that I really wasn’t being ‘that productive.’ 
  1. Trust yourself and know that you did your best. The easiest way to trust yourself is to do your best. Instead of obsessing over the ‘what ifs’ remind yourself that if you put your best work in, you should reflect on your final grade or project.  

Overall, every person’s relationship with be different with productivity and avoiding burnout. And what works for some may not work for others. However, it is up to you to try and find the balance between trying your hardest and running yourself ragged.  

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