Fuck Productivity, You Probably Need Rest

I’ve been finding myself feeling nostalgic. Instead of listening to new jams or watching new Netflix shows, I’ve been playing old Celine Dion songs I haven’t heard in years, and watching my favorite old movies like Eat Pray Love. One particular scene keeps coming to mind, as I’ve been reading dozens of articles on how to stay productive during quarantine.

In the novel-turned-movie, writer Elizabeth Gilbert, played by Julia Roberts, is at a barbershop in Italy. She’s listening to and giggling with an Italian man, and a new friend, who is dropping some real-life truth bombs on her after she expresses guilt for not doing anything on her vacation. “You Americans,” he says, “You get burnt out. You work too hard. And then you come home and spend the whole weekend in your pajamas in front of the TV.”

His words feel poignant now, as we’re all collectively burnt out and emotionally depleted. Since COVID-19 hit our North American shores, we’ve been inundated with the importance of staying productive, and the benefits to your mental health even. And while I believe some productivity is needed, I continue to hear from so many around me, particularly at our online events, that they feel immense shame for not staying productive. They aren’t allowing themselves to rest, even when they desperately crave it.

The more you do, the more value you have within our society—upholding America’s capitalist requirements. Push through. Work harder. Compete. Even during a global pandemic.

Alexandra D’amour

In the rapid development of COVID-19, it was apparent rather quickly that our society is indeed dysfunctional; it’s one addicted to outside validation, and uses accomplishments and success to calculate worth.  

The more you do, the more value you have within our society—upholding America’s capitalist requirements. Push through. Work harder. Compete. Even during a global pandemic.

But it’s fucking hard to be productive right now. Insert collective guilt, negative self-talk, and a healthy dose of shame, and next thing you know, we’ve convinced ourselves we are pieces of shit. If we can’t motivate ourselves, tackle our massive to-do lists, and manage our time amidst fear and chaos—who the hell are we? Surely not American.

We convince ourselves that productivity is the needed bandaid—but it’s not. 

Alexandra D’amour

A few days ago, after I ranted on Insta stories, one of my followers sent me The Nap Ministry, an IG account dedicated to examining the liberating power of naps. In their article called “As grind culture slows down, will you?” they write, “I have noticed this tendency in our culture to skip steps during trauma. We jump right to getting over it immediately, leaving no space for the precious ritual of grief, rest and lament.”

We convince ourselves that productivity is the needed bandaid—but it’s not.

Overvaluing productivity isn’t healthy and impacts our mental health. It leads to never feeling like we’re enough, no matter what we actually accomplish. We’re currently in survival mode, feeling depleted, and stuck between flight or fight. The antidote? Rest.  

But there is a sense of shame in admitting one needs rest—and it can feel very vulnerable. Rest often feels like we’re being lazy, and it’s synonymous with failure. Above all else, in a capitalistic society, one must strive until pure exhaustion, one must be validated by everyone except oneself, and one must be productive no matter the circumstance.

If there was ever a time to not push, and to instead slow down and allow our minds to catch up, it’s now. If you’re feeling exhausted, you don’t need an additional reason to slow down. You don’t even need permission.

Alexandra D’amour

Even when we are encouraged to chill, we ensure it’s done fast. 10 minute power naps! 15 minute yoga! 20 minute meals! Even slowing down has to be done in a productive manner. 

The reality is that many of us, myself included, don’t know how to rest. Allowing ourselves to slow down is such a foreign concept to most of us, that just the mere thought of it, can feel like we’re doing something wrong. We are so disconnected from our bodies and ourselves, that it’s hard to listen to our inner queues urging us to slow down. 

If there was ever a time to not push, and to instead slow down and allow our minds to catch up, it’s now. If you’re feeling exhausted, you don’t need an additional reason to slow down. You don’t even need permission. Rest is how we restore and replenish ourselves, how we’re able to process what is happening to us and around us. Rest will be how we heal from this, both individually and together. 

And if all else fails, just follow the advice from the Italian guy in Eat Pray Love: la dolce far niente; learn to enjoy the sweetness of doing nothing. We’re all being forced to stay in our homes, and maybe when all of this is over, one of the biggest takeaways will be to value the ability to do nothing. Hell, to even learn how to enjoy it. To learn how to slow down and rest. To smell the roses wherever, whenever we can. And to know that our worth is not defined by how much we do, but instead, by how much we live.

LET'S TALK: do you feel shame about not being productive enough? are you allowing yourself to rest?

9 Comments

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THIS ARTICLE

  1. AH, yes. I feel this deeply. My best friend is an illustrator and on a bad day he made me a picture that said “your worth is not your productivity.” Resting feels like a waste of time to me, but I’ve noticed that taking breaks, sometimes long ones, aid my brain and art in unexpected ways.

    Have you read Heather Havrilesky’s “What if This Were Enough?” She talks about consumerism culture and wellness how society pressures us to maximize our existence. But doesn’t that come with a great deal of pressure… to be the best and do the most?

    3 likes
  2. I’m not sure if this makes sense.. but it’s almost like I’m too tired to rest. Anyone else feels this?

    3 likes
  3. So well said. This is undoing toxic conditioning, and so it will take times for our bodies to adjust. People forget that will all addictions, the body first goes through withdrawal–feverishly fighting for the drug to be taken again so that we can feel regular once more. We’re right in the thick of it now. I wonder what more time will reveal.

    2 likes
  4. I’m so glad you mentioned The Nap Ministry. It’s been so interesting to see how my mentality toward working/productivity/rest has changed incorporating their advice. It’s also been interesting to see how often I need their reminders to take a minute for myself. Unlearning our culture of productivity is an arduous process.

    2 likes

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