5 Tips to Break the Cycle of Toxic Productivity

Mental Health & Self Love

September 02, 2021

Even though your eyes are exhausted from staring at your computer screen for hours, the urge to continue working overwhelms you. Hundreds of negative thoughts rush through your mind. I don't do anything. Everything I do isn't good enough.

I need to work harder, be better. If I want to be successful and happy, I have to push myself past my limits. Unfortunately, a countless number of teenagers, including myself, have a similar voice in their minds, telling them to constantly be productive, as they believe this is the only way to have a rich, fulfilling life.

But, the perpetual cycle of toxic productivity can be much more harmful than most would think. Here are five recommendations to dissociate yourself from toxic productivity.

You are not the work you complete

Those who struggle with toxic productivity often base their self-worth and acceptance on the work they complete throughout the day. If I don't finish all of these assignments, I can't relax tonight. I can't go to sleep until I get all this done. The key to rejecting the toxic productivity mindset is by ignoring these damaging thoughts.

This is easier said than done, but it is important to understand that you are enough merely for existing. You do not need to prove yourself or your abilities. Especially during the coronavirus pandemic, I tended to overwork myself and ignore the bottled-up emotions inside me.

Toxic productivity has followed me back to normalcy. But, I have continued to remind myself that I am much more than the checkmarks on my to-do list and the number of tasks I am able to complete by the end of the day.

Prioritize time for yourself

When life gets hectic, it is easy to put aside your needs and wants. You are overwhelmed with homework and extracurricular activities. But, it is important to take moments for yourself. Putting life on "pause" for a short amount of time will provide you with the break you need to keep going.

Aside from taking brief breaks throughout the day to declutter your mind, ensuring that you are not putting work before your mental health and well-being is essential to escape from the vicious cycle of toxic productivity. Every night, for one hour, I take time to do something that puts a smile on my face, that alleviates my stress. Whether I cover myself with blankets and watch my favorite television show or spend five minutes simply sitting and being in the present, I make sure to put aside time for myself.

Be strict with yourself

Once I have crossed every assignment off of my agenda, I sit frozen at my desk. Dissatisfaction consumes me until I am nothing but disappointed in myself. Four words that I catch myself constantly thinking about pop up in my mind: I can do better.

I can do better.

I can do better.

I can do better.

I will have to do better.

My first instinct is to begin working on other homework and activities. Suddenly, it became apparent to me that I would never be satisfied with myself. There will always be something I can do better or work more on. Being strict with myself and taking time to de-stress once I have completed everything on my to-do list has been most helpful.

Implement positive self-talk

Dr. Therese Mascardo, founder of the L.A. Digital Nomads and CEO of Exploring Therapy, explains, "You may find yourself caught in a cycle of chasing accomplishments that give you a temporary sense of worth until that wears off and you need yet another accomplishment to make you feel valuable.”

Toxic productivity will never let you win. So, stop playing the game. Your value is who you are, rather than what you accomplish.

Treat yourself like you would treat your closest friend. You would never tell them that the work they complete is what defines them. Speak to yourself kindly.

When a bustle of negative thoughts hits you at once, take a moment to fill your mind with positive ones.

Don't compare yourself to others

Numerous teenagers scroll on their phones for hours and hours. They see people posting about all they have accomplished in a day. But, many fail to realize that social media is nothing but a highlight reel. When impressionable teenagers see post after post regarding one's productivity, they begin to believe that they are behind or not doing enough.

But, many fail to realize that those on social media never post days where they are unmotivated and cannot bring themselves to be productive. Comparing yourself to others and toxic productivity goes hand in hand. Once you stop comparing yourself, you will begin to disassociate your worth from your accomplishments.

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated toxic productivity, and it is vital for you to break off from this cycle immediately. Toxic productivity is rooted in a handful of other issues, including low confidence and self-esteem. Tackling the serious problem at hand will positively change the way you view yourself, along with your mindset.

Similar to any other problem we face, fighting against toxic productivity seems intangible and impossible. But, if you approach eliminating toxic productivity with small steps, you will have an incredibly higher chance at success. These five tips are here to help.

Sophene Avedissian
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Sophene Avedissian is a sophomore in high school. She writes for her school newspaper, Spyglass, the Los Angeles Times High School Insider, and the Youth Civics Initiative. During her free time, Sophene enjoys reading, playing soccer, and spending time with family and friends.