It’s Okay if You’re Not Productive All the Time

I used to struggle with thinking that I had to always be productive. I felt like I should always be reaching the next milestone, building upon my success in a linear or exponential path. I was always looking for the next experience or goal that I had to accomplish. Maybe I’d be content with the present moment for some time, but eventually, I’d feel some pressure to be doing more.

It wasn’t until I faced mental health challenges that I realized that pushing yourself to do more all the time isn’t the healthiest way to live your life. If you are able to do more and you accomplish that, great. But if not, there’s no reason to beat yourself up. Life doesn’t have to be constantly going up. And actually, life doesn’t even work that way. You’re going to experience downs at one point or another. If you can embrace that you will be unproductive at some points in your life, it will make it easier to prepare and deal with those “down” periods.

Personally when I’m down, I just focus on basic self-care. I eat well, and nowadays I try to incorporate minimal physical activity, I let out my feelings in healthy ways such as journaling or music or talking to someone, I get enough rest, I maintain my hygiene… There’s actually a lot that goes into self-care that people may not realize. If you’ve ever experienced long periods of time with difficult or sad emotions (depressed, or not even necessarily depressed, maybe grieving, dealing with anxiety, or just having a difficult time dealing with hardships in life), you’ll know that it can be hard to do the most basic things sometimes. But, self-care is especially important during this time.

Honestly, I know I’m privileged, so it may not be easy for everyone to do this. However if you can, I’d say not to focus on making money or working too much during a down period. Some people find it helpful to give back to their communities, to do volunteer work or to involve themselves more in their work in general. But, many people can experience burnout. I wasn’t pushing myself to work too hard or to focus on making money when I was having difficulty dealing with voices. In addition to self-care, I engaged in CBT therapy, trying a variety of coping skills, and involving myself with activities that I thought I might enjoy. I was working on myself, to become healthier (mostly mentally/emotionally, but now even physically). I figured that if I couldn’t help myself, how could I possibly help others? It’s nice if you can provide values to others, but don’t neglect yourself in the process.

I would say 2019 was one of my least productive years. I was just barely getting by, disconnected from reality and feeling trapped by the command voice I was experiencing. Some people were trying to be helpful, but didn’t really know how or gave poor advice. For example, a few friends told me that they didn’t think CBT would help me with my voices. (It did.) One professional I successfully worked with many years ago had no idea how to help me with the problems I faced with the command voice. Another so-called professional was overtly rude and judgmental, not really understanding the severity or the intensity of the command voice. I didn’t taking any courses or work on any major creative projects at this time.

2020 was the year that I started to regain my interests slowly but surely. I revamped my blog. I started a body hair positive Instagram. I posted a couple of song covers on streaming services. I became more social. CBT was really helping me. It reminded me of my college years when I removed limiting beliefs, but it felt much more balanced. Back then, I wanted to avoid all negative feelings such as fear, anger, sadness, etc. But with CBT, I realized the importance of sitting with those feelings of anxiety or sadness, not letting it overwhelm you but to experience it without any quick judgments or reactions. I learned that you didn’t always have to view events positively or to lean entirely to a positive perspective. Sometimes, I felt right in the middle, like the negative thoughts evened out with the positive. And, that was okay too!

Even in 2020, I would say I wasn’t the most productive. I was gaining a lot of clarity mentally and emotionally. I did focus on some creative outlets, but it was mostly from inner work I was processing.

This year, I still feel as if I’m focusing on myself. But, I’m trying to find ways to transform that into value for others. For example, I finished producing a song on hearing negative and suicidal voice. I thought I could share with others how I work through those feelings and try to reframe the voice. I unofficially started this health journey, hoping to reduce a few pounds to reach a normal BMI again and to feel more energetic and stronger in general. I’m also planning to accomplish other goals and create other habits that I can turn around and teach others about. I want to share reviews of courses or books that I’ve finished. I have other goals such as producing another song and maybe even publishing another book. I would like to also get back to creating videos on YouTube, besides just music.

It took a couple years, but I’m finally becoming “more productive” again. And honestly, I don’t think anyone really notices the difference. I don’t think anyone is really keeping track except myself. I could have another 2019 all over again this year and nobody would notice. So, I don’t know why I really felt pressured to be productive all the time. I think honestly, just being there for yourself and doing what you can to be a healthy person is enough. Self-mastery is a worthy goal in itself.

Don’t mistake your worth or importance for being how much you contribute to society. It’s great if you can contribute, but it’s not necessary. Society will continue to function whether you contribute to it or not. Plus, you can’t really compare each person’s contribution. Someone who has 5 million YouTube subscribers for their mukbang channel may be providing entertainment value in their videos garnering millions of views, and someone else may be providing mental health services for a child who has ADHD. Can you really compare the two? One person versus millions of people? Online versus face-to-face? Entertainment versus mental health? Why even compare? What’s the point? People engage in different activities. People have different experiences and are educated on different subjects.

Again, your worth is not tied to your contribution to society. Your worth is not determined by your level of production. So, please don’t feel as if you have to force yourself to be productive all the time. There will be a time again when you can and when you are able to do so. In the meantime, just focus on your health.

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