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Productivity Does Not Equal Purpose

Kyleigh Leist

Marketing Director

work-life balance

Society tends to make us believe that productivity equates to purpose. I'm here to tell you that society is wrong. Society is lying to you. For many, especially in demanding roles, this notion becomes ingrained: the more we achieve, the more valuable we feel. However, this mindset can become detrimental, especially for those of us battling major depressive disorder. When depressive episodes hit, productivity plummets, and with it, our sense of purpose. But through this journey, I've discovered that productivity is not synonymous with purpose.


A Day in a Depressive Episode

To understand the depth of my struggle, let's start with a typical day during one of my depressive episodes. Waking up feels like an immediate damper to the day. The thought of facing emails, meetings, and the endless to-do list is daunting. Getting out of bed is the first victory of the day. As I sit down at desk, I carry a heavy fog that clouds my creativity, motivation, and even basic decision-making.


Despite the pressing responsibilities, my mind remains fixated on a loop of self-doubt and fatigue. The once passionate and driven person feels like a shadow of her former self. Every task takes longer, every interaction feels forced, and every accomplishment seems insignificant. The weight of these feelings creates a vicious cycle: the less productive I am, the less purpose I feel, and the deeper I sink into the episode.


Juggling Social Life and Relationships

On top of work challenges, managing a social life and maintaining my relationship while struggling mentally adds another layer of complexity. Friends and loved ones often don’t see the internal battles we fight daily. Balancing social engagements, nurturing relationships, and meeting work demands can feel like an insurmountable task.

During my depressive episodes, I often feel guilty for not being fully present for my friends and partner. Social gatherings feel draining, and the effort to maintain a facade of normalcy is exhausting. It’s easy to withdraw and isolate, but this can further exacerbate my feelings of loneliness and despair.


Realizing Productivity is Not Purpose

The turning point for me came during a particularly challenging depressive episode recently. I realized that equating my self-worth solely with my output at work was not sustainable. This epiphany didn't come easy. It was the result of introspection, therapy, and a lot of support from those around me. I learned that purpose is multifaceted and goes beyond mere productivity.


Here are some insights that helped me shift my perspective:


  1. Recognizing Intrinsic Value: I began to understand that my value isn't tied to how much I can accomplish in a day. My worth is inherent, and my contributions extend beyond tangible results. This realization helped alleviate some of the pressure I placed on myself.

  2. Embracing Vulnerability: Sharing my struggles with my team, friends, and loved ones was crucial. I found that opening up about my mental health created a more supportive and empathetic environment. It also allowed others to feel comfortable sharing their struggles, fostering a culture of mutual understanding.

  3. Finding Small Wins: During depressive episodes, even the smallest tasks can feel monumental. Celebrating small victories, like responding to an email or attending a meeting, helped build momentum and a sense of accomplishment.


Strategies for Finding Balance

  1. Setting Realistic Goals: During depressive episodes, setting achievable goals is essential. Break down tasks into smaller, manageable steps. This approach prevents feeling overwhelmed and provides a sense of progress.

  2. Prioritizing Self-Care: Taking care of your mental and physical health is paramount. Incorporate activities that bring you joy and relaxation into your routine... even when it seems impossible.

  3. Establishing a Support System: Surround yourself with people who understand and support your mental health journey. This could be friends, family, co-worker, partner, or a peer. Their encouragement and understanding can provide a much-needed boost during tough times.

  4. Creating a Flexible Schedule: Flexibility in your work schedule can make a significant difference. Allow yourself to work during your most productive times and take breaks when needed. Communicate your needs with your team to find a balance that works for everyone. Take those breaks.

  5. Open Communication in Relationships: Be honest with your partner and friends about what you’re going through. Let them know how they can support you. It’s important to set boundaries and let them understand that there will be times when you need space to recharge.

  6. Quality Over Quantity in Social Interactions: Focus on having meaningful interactions rather than numerous social engagements. Prioritize time with those who uplift and understand you. It’s okay to decline invitations if you’re not feeling up to it.


A Message of Hope

If you’re reading this and find yourself in a similar situation, know that you’re not alone. Depressive episodes are incredibly challenging, but they don't define your worth or your capabilities. Finding purpose beyond productivity is a journey, one that requires patience and self-compassion.


Remember, it's okay to struggle, and it's okay to seek help. Embrace your vulnerabilities, celebrate your small victories, and prioritize your well-being. Your purpose is not measured by your output but by your inherent value and the positive impact you have on those around you.


Let's redefine what it means to be successful. Let's create environments where mental health is prioritized, and individuals are valued for who they are, not just what they achieve. Together, we can build a culture that supports mental well-being and recognizes that productivity does not equate to purpose.


This journey has been a profound one for me, and it's an uphill battle I know I can win. Whether you’re a professional, a student, or someone simply trying to get through the day, know that your worth is immeasurable. Let’s support each other in finding balance and purpose, even in the midst of our struggles.


_________



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