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Mental Health

Reality Check: Productivity Does Not Equal Worthiness

I’ve been so caught up in my head, lately. With finals sneaking up right around the corner, a hundred summer internships to apply to and move-out season happening so quickly, it can be immensely challenging to find time to just sit back and breathe. 

One, two, three; one, two, three. Inhale, exhale and repeat. 

One hard-to-swallow yet crucial reminder I had to give myself this last week was this: your level of productivity does NOT equal your worthiness. You still matter even if you didn’t finish your day off the way you initially wanted to. You are still worthy even if you need time to rest, dear friend.

As a perfectionist, I want to do it all—perhaps you’ve been there, too. I want to hold as many things in my hands as possible, try something new everyday, get the best grades I can muster and still find the time to take care of myself. I want to go to the gym, meet new people and visit all the hot spots in the city (socially distanced, of course). I want to do everything perfectly, all the time. But it’s stressful and overwhelming and sometimes, not at all feasible. 

And that’s okay. We weren’t built to be perfect robots; we were born with the universe inside of ourselves, to experience what it’s like to be a human being. I guess capitalism and the economy just got in the way (ha ha). 

Sometimes, sacrifices for our own health and well-being must be made, especially during intense exam seasons. It doesn’t do you any good to spend an extra two hours studying for a final at 3 a.m. when you’ve gotten zero sleep in the past two days. Trust me: you’ll do better than you think, and getting rest to freshen your senses and keep your mind sharp is a powerful and helpful action that helps you to ace that exam you’ve been forever stressing about.

It’s good to have goals! But this is your reminder that it’s okay not to have everything figured out right now. The weight of the world does not fall onto your shoulders when you need to take a break once in a while. You are more capable than you know, and the power to be successful is already within you. 

I know that productivity is essential to our feelings of success and accomplishment. It looks vastly different for everybody, but being productive means checking the things off our to-do lists. Being productive isn’t always a choice—for most of us, it’s necessary for survival. There is so much pressure on all of us to succeed. If we want to earn our degrees, and get money to support ourselves and our families, we have no choice but to keep working endlessly. As college students, we pride ourselves on our accomplishments, on our extra-curriculars, on getting those stellar grades and on receiving those important letters of recommendation from professors for graduate programs and big-girl jobs. 

But, I’m not talking about not finishing what you started. Being determined and ambitious are key elements that drive us all to rise to the top and chase after our dreams. I want you to be the best version you can be.

What I’m talking about is just finding a short amount of time to take an actual break. This means taking a few minutes to just sit in silence, read your comfort book, go to bed earlier or even get your favorite cup of coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in a long time because your busy schedules never align. It’s taking some time to actually be a person and make some college memories you’ll always remember, even if it’s just for 20 minutes.

After I’ve been cooped up in my room so much this semester doing homework and trying to squeeze all my obligations in, a helpful way I’ve been taking a break from my textbooks and laptop is by scheduling social events. I try to plan ahead as much as possible, so I’m not always cramming in study time and work, and never getting to see the people I care about. Being organized and blocking off special time to just catch up with your friends or roommates is beneficial, not only for your social life, but also for your mental health. Human beings are inherently social creatures, and we need moments that comfort, encourage and inspire us.

Burnout and stress during this time of year is unfortunately so real. Although I do confess I am a busy bee and thrive when having things to do, this was my wake-up call to realize that my worthiness is not measured by how productive I am. We are worth so much more than a scribbled check on our to-do lists!

So please, take care of yourself. You will climb the mountains and cross the rivers, but you can’t keep pouring from an empty cup. Go to bed an hour early, answer that phone call from your mom or go grab a quick dinner with your friends outside. Life is busy, but we don’t want it to pass us by. Making a detailed planner and organizing your to-do list can help keep you on top of things, especially when burnout flows from this jumbled-up spider web of deadlines we all have right now.

Worthiness is defined by our personal understanding that we are doing the best we can with what we have. And that means everything. 

Maria is the HCSLU President for the 2021-2022 year. She is a rising senior with a major in Communication and a double-minor in Marketing and Film Studies. Maria was born in the Philippines and grew up around Chicago. She is a published author and poet, and loves all forms of inclusive story-telling, especially for media and entertainment!
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