Toxic Productivity: Are Your Working Yourself To Death? How To Reclaim Your Mind, Body,and Soul

Are you spending too much time working instead of taking care of your mental, physical, and spiritual health?  Do your loved ones complain that you’re not spending enough time with them?  Do you feel burned out, stressed, and overwhelmed a majority of the time? If you answered “Yes,” you may be suffering from the condition known as Toxic Productivity. Toxic Productivity is  the unhealthy and compulsive desire to work all of the time. When you suffer from Toxic Productivity, you are more concerned with what you didn’t do than with what you actually accomplished. People with Toxic Productivity often suffer from stress, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, anxiety, depression, and other compulsive behaviors (over shopping).  During the pandemic, many people have stayed home, but instead of relaxing and enjoying their leisure time, they have worked even more in an attempt to find security in an uncertain world. Here are some tips to help you regain your peace of mind and joy if you feel overworked and stressed out:

1. Keep a True Productivity Journal. In a notebook or tablet, keep track of the time you spend working, as well as the time you spend on enjoying leisure pursuits.  Write down your feelings when you’re working and when you’re relaxing. Some people love their work so much that it feels like play; they feel happy and fulfilled. Other people find their work boring or stressful.  The key is to find work that you love to do, while also making sure that you balance your work with healthy and relaxing activities such as exercise, meditation, listening to music, reading, working with your hands, being in nature, engaging in a spiritual practice, or spending quality time with loved ones, including your love partner, children, and animals. You will feel more uplifted and ready to get back to work when you take the time to relax and rejuvenate.

2. Develop a Self-Compassionate Mindset. Don’t be so hard on yourself if you didn’t complete a project you had been wanting to finish. At the end of the workday, tell yourself that “I have done enough. I am sufficient as a human being, and I don’t need to work anymore to prove my worth. I can rest and start again tomorrow.”

3. Reframe rest as productivity: Don’t punish yourself for being productive. You may be a very efficient person who does a lot of work in a short period of time. If that’s the case, then you may need to overcome the temptation to keep doing more work. When you’ve completed an important task or project, reward yourself with an enjoyable activity—perhaps talking to friends, playing with your dog, or watching your favorite show. Also, you need to rethink you way you view “rest.” Instead of perceiving rest as a distraction from your work, view it as a way to increase your productivity because you feel more relaxed and focused after you’ve taken a relaxation break.  A very successful business was hired to save a company on the verge of bankruptcy. The first thing he did was book a ticket to an island resort. After relaxing on the beach for a week, the frantic company CEO finally got ahold of him and wanted to know what he was doing lying on the beach. He replied:  “The bigger the problem, the more I need to relax to clear my mind.” When he came back, he was able to quickly turn the company around and save it from bankruptcy. He knew that relaxation increased his mental focus and power to do his best work. You can do the same. Go ahead and take a mini-vacation (or a bigger one); go to a nearby day spa or wilderness area, spend a few hours doing your favorite activity, whether it’s playing sports, gardening, working with your hands, or spending time with loved ones. When you take care of yourself first, you will come back reenergized and ready to take on the world.

4. Manage energy, not time.  Are you a morning or an evening person? Determine when you have the strongest energy and do your most challenging or creative work at that time. Perhaps, you have the most energy in the morning. If that’s the case, when you wake up in the morning, make sure you immediately start working on the most difficult project or task of the day. Later in the day when your energy wanes, you can handle less mentally challenging tasks such as texts, emails, or paperwork.  In this way, you can maximize your energy, your life force, and accomplish more in less time while feeling invigorated and competent in the process.

5. Extend Loving Energy without expectation.   On a daily basis, strive to give love without expecting anything in return. Smile, offer sincere compliments, and help those who need it. Be kind and compassionate without expecting other people to give you anything back. When you give love without expectations like this, you will gain a tremendous amount of emotional and psychological power.  You will no longer desperately seek the approval or recognition of others; you won’t be at the beck and call of other people’s unreasonable demands and unrealistic expectations. You are independent and self-sufficient because your source of energy and power is within; you give love simply because that is what you have inside you.  In the same way, when you work with love without expecting anything from the fruits of your work (money, accolades), you are capable of infinite work. Because your self-esteem is not tied to your work, you won’t suffer from constant stress and unfulfilled expectations. You are free to do your work spontaneously, creatively, and authentically because your true nature, your authentic self, comes from a higher source. You may call this Higher Source a certain name such as God, Nature, Spirit, Nature, or Love. Regardless of the name you use, when you tap into the goodness and love of this Higher Nature, everything you do, including your work, will be lighter, easier, and more joyous.

Start today to change your attitude toward work and leisure. Do work that you love, but don’t work at the expense of your mental and spiritual health—maintain a healthy balance between work and relaxation.  Take the time to rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit by doing things that uplift you.  Spend quality time with your mate, children, family, and friends; participate in fun leisure activities and hobbies, rest, exercise, eat healthy, and get a good night’s sleep. When you do this, you will have more energy to do the work you love. You will also bring more love to the world as you love yourself at the same time. As the famous poet, Khalil Gibran, once said: “Work is love made visible.”  This week, strive to enjoy your work and your life, as much as you possibly can.