Toxic productivity can be described as the need to be productive all the time. Living our lives by ‘to-do’ lists, and constantly looking to have more, by doing more, so they can feel more. It is a red flag, that quite often leads to burnout. In my coaching practice, I have worked with 100’s of clients that have pushed themselves beyond their capacity, be that in work, in the gym, or in their relationships, all driven by deep insecurities. When we are secure in ourselves, we are not driven by fear, we create more balance, and boundaries are something that exist quite naturally.
On the surface it may seem like toxic productivity is just about wanting to achieve, but it can go much deeper. Experience in childhood can leave emotional scars, around self-worth, and confidence, which often drives the need to be productive. I have had many clients discover limiting beliefs around rest i.e., ‘if you rest, you are being lazy’, ‘there’s always something that needs to be done’, ‘success is having lots of money’ or ‘I have to be perfect’. Our beliefs drive our behaviors, and we run these unconscious programs prompting us into acting in ways that may not be healthy or sustainable. Limiting beliefs quite often are inherited from our family, friends, partners, or even messages from schoolteachers. This is where working with a coach can facilitate great change, placing boundaries on behaviors that are quite toxic, and reintroducing some balance into your life. We all have limiting beliefs, but they are not always a problem, until they are, and then this is when we need to look at what is driving our behaviors, leading to toxic behaviors and ultimately burning ourselves out.
Have you ever wondered what drives your need to be busy all the time? When working with my coaching clients on recovering from burnout, we dig into the drivers behind their busyness, and quite often what shows up is this feeling of never being enough. When we don’t feel good enough, we endlessly look for external validation, which can show up in our schedules. There is this false perception that if we are seen to do more, it must mean our lives are full, and that we must be content? Well, not exactly, it can often mean we take on more than we have the capacity for, and this is a red flag.
While insecurities have always existed, the pressure to ‘keep up with the joneses’ has driven many of us to make poor choices, outside of our financial or mental capacity. This lifestyle becomes unsustainable, sometimes financially, but nearly always from an emotional and mental health perspective. I do feel that the rise in social media usage has triggered us into a fall sense of thinking that everyone has a better life than we do, prompting us into booking the next trip away, buying another dress, signing up for a gym program and forgetting our kids may need a rest and not another activity. The list becomes endless as we seek happiness through what we gain, and not what we already have. Many parents spoke of the relief of not being constantly on the road dropping their kids from one activity to the next, when lockdown first hit, and yet from the clients I meet now, that busyness is back.
The key here is to have boundaries around what you are willing to be influenced by, to have strategies to reconnect with who you are, your values, and what feels right for you and your family. Resting is not just a form of relaxation, it is essential for our nervous system, our digestive system, our immune system, and our overall health. A big part of avoiding burnout is accepting rest is not a luxury, but a non-negotiable. I often say to parents, be mindful of what messages you are passing onto your kids, encourage them to rest, don’t reprimand them for doing so, break the cycle of feeling the need to be doing all the time, and help them understand the importance of balance.
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