Mental Wellness: Productivity, anxiety and the dangers of burnout | Lifestyles

Have you ever heard of the term productivity anxiety? This is anxiety related to your productivity and performance. Some of the following may be familiar to you: No matter what you do or how hard you work, it’s never good enough in your eyes. The feeling that you are never doing enough, like you could or should be doing more. You are overly critical of the work you do and rarely feel satisfied with the work you complete. No matter how hard you work, it’s never enough. Productivity anxiety is exhausting and can leave you feeling trapped in an unhealthy cycle of stress.

You may also be ashamed of things that you would consider unproductive. Or even feeling guilty if you don’t “do something”.

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Even on days off, you may feel like you need to be productive. And when you’re in this cycle, you may never give yourself the time or space to rest or practice self-care because you feel like you’re wasting time—essentially preventing you from achieving a positive work-life balance.

This can be very unhealthy. It can lead to increased anxiety or symptoms of depression. You may also start resenting your work or your responsibilities. This unhealthy cycle can quickly turn from stress to burnout.

With stress, there is an end, a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how hard it is to get there. With burnout, there is a cycle of negativity and withdrawal. By burning, the tank is out of gas. Signs of burnout may include fatigue, physical symptoms such as gastrointestinal problems, headaches or back pain, sleep problems, changes in diet, lack of enthusiasm or excitement for activities, and withdrawal from others.

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What can we do to break this cycle?

Create healthier routines while at work. Maybe take a break, like a real break. Get away from your desk and take a walk. Set limits with your time. Practice mindfulness in the middle of the day. Instead of being so critical of your work, praise yourself for the work you do. Treat your success and task completion the same way you would for anyone else. Set realistic goals for your day to day.

Use your free time to take time off. Don’t waste your time catching up on email or voicemail. Do things you enjoy. In fact, use your vacation time, PTO, and sick time. Try new things.

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Even if you feel uncomfortable, try to sit and do nothing. Find your power in silence and stillness. Find happiness beyond your achievements and performance.

Set boundaries for yourself and your time. Check social media only once a day, no work calls or emails after 5pm, take time for yourself, put self-care on your calendar, think about what you appreciate, practice gratitude.

You are worth it.

Nicole Ball is a professor of social work at Ferris State University, a clinical mental health therapist and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling, a holistic mental health center in Traverse City. Learn more at


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