Mental Health Awareness Week - Toxic Productivity

Mental Health Awareness Week runs through Monday 18th May to 24th May.

It is the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health and mental health problems and inspire us to take action to promote the message of good mental health for all. 

This week, we’ll be publishing an article a day on some of the mental health issues that we face, and tips on how to manage them and hopefully overcome them.

In today’s article, we share Dr. Julie Smith’s expertise on toxic productivity.

This is an especially topical subject given the current lockdown and the added pressures of having to work from home.

Dr Julie is a psychologist who publishes daily videos on psychology, mental health and motivation across social media.


 What is toxic productivity?

“Toxic productivity is an obsession with radical self-improvement above all else. The result is that no matter how productive you are, you are always left with that guilty feeling of not having done more.”

How do you recognise toxic productivity?

Dr Julie states that there are three ways to recognise toxic productivity:

  1. Harmful to well-being: Working to the extent that it harms your health, your relationships, or your general well-being
  2. Unrealistic expectations: Having relentless and unrealistic expectations for yourself, so that you feel like you are constantly failing to be enough
  3. Restlessness: When it is time to rest, you find it difficult to relax or difficult to sleep

What causes toxic productivity?

“We have a cultural problem in our society, a pressure to constantly be online, on social media, means that the world has an almost constant view into our lives, and that compounds the pressure to appear a certain way to family, friends, or potential employers. We are bombarded with adverts every day that encourage us to measure our self-worth based on our productivity.”

How can we ease the pressure of toxic productivity?

Dr Julie states recommends four ways to help alleviate the pressures of toxic productivity:

  1. Be content: Recognise you are a human being and you are enough as you are today without top exam results, or a flash career with a high profile and high paying job.
  2. Self-care is necessary: Recognise that self-care is not an indulgence, it is essential for good physical and mental health. Sometimes human beings just need to rest.
  3. Non-negotiables: Have some non-negotiables on your self-care list, certain things that you do no matter how busy you get. This can be lunch or your exercise routine.
  4. Manage your to-do list: When you are determining the to-dos for the day, add an item to the list just because you think you may enjoy it. This will hopefully provide an uplifting moment and welcome distraction from any negative emotions.

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Dr. Julie Smith frequently publishes informative videos on mental health and wellbeing which can be found here: