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Toxic Productivity and COVID 19 Brain

It is a great use of self-isolation and social restrictions to focus on some positive missions but when this becomes an overwhelming and unattainable to do list, it can have negative effects on our Mental wellbeing. This is called Toxic Productivity.

Many Western Australians are feeling the pressure to do something meaningful or involve themselves in self-improvement activities during COVID 19. These pressures are hard to avoid with constant social media updates of family and friends exercising, meditating or Feng shui-ing their whole lives. How do we identify Toxic Productivity and avoid its negative advance on our mental health?

What toxic productivity looks like?
Dr. Therese Mascardo, a Clinical Psychologist describes Toxic Productivity in her article What is Toxic Productivity? as behaviours that are harmful to you, your goals, and your daily life.
 
It can look quite different on everyone, but it may bring with it a sense of never really being present. Dr Mascardo uses the example of getting up from the table to quickly wash the dishes instead for sitting down and enjoying your family’s company which may resonate with a lot of Western Australians. Forgetting obligations and neglecting personal responsibilities is another sign that your tendency to have tunnel vision when it comes to these pressures, is harming you and your loved ones.
 
She suggests asking yourself questions such as are my expectations realistic? or am I finding it hard to take rest? to better understand if your productivity has become harmful. 
 
COVID-19 Brain
Remember that no one is expected to perform during a world pandemic, and it makes sense if you are just keeping your head above water. If you are finding it hard to commit to big to-do list or you are feeling completely overwhelmed with just everyday tasks, then you may be experiencing COVID-19 Brain. 
 
According to Hilke Plassmann, Octapharma Chaired Professor of Decision Neuroscience at INSEAD, the area of the brain responsible for complex planning, working memory and analytical thinking, is swamped with ambiguous signals during a stormy emotional climate which impacts our decision-making abilities. The combination of impaired thinking and heightened sensitivities creates what can be called ‘COVID-19 Brain” which Hilke describes as a fragile and frazzled stat that keeps our thoughts on edge and unfocused.
 
People react to situations differently and will have differing needs during stressful periods. So, as some people may enjoy the distraction learning a new language or taking up a new hobby your brain may not be operating comfortable doing this and understanding what’s best for your mental wellness can help you create better boundaries and avoid toxic productivity.
 
Read more about COVID-19 Brain here in order to better understand what is physically happening in your head and hopefully help you understand that its ok if you are not able to take on more during COVID 19 – maybe your focus will be around smaller daily wins rather than big displays of self-improvement and that’s fine too.
 
Coping
 
Dr Mascardo say there are lots of things you can do to have a healthier relationship with your need to be productive. She suggests trying techniques like setting yourself realistic goals only and adjusting them as needed and making sure that you have people in your life that can hold you accountable and keep you aware of your self-destructive behaviours.
 
Check out Dr Mascardo’s article for more advice on avoiding the need to impress others with your accomplishments during this pandemic and better adjusting your thinking to help boaster mental wellness.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or you have reached a point where your feeling is no longer manageable then please call Lifeline WA on 13 11 14 and let us help.

Written by Karen McGlynn

Image credit: Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash