• Fiona Martha

The Pressure to be Productive

I started sixth form a couple of weeks ago, and my life is already so busy with the pressure of it all. Trying to keep up with all the work, balance it with my physical health, and not put too much pressure on myself mentally is proving to be more difficult than I thought. Frankly, I'm not actually managing to balance it at all at the moment.

It caught up to me recently, and I missed a day of school yesterday, because I'm ill. I went back in today, despite still not being well, because I had classes I felt I couldn't miss.

The worst part about staying at home is that I'm never able to rest. And that's pretty much the whole point of staying off sick - resting to get better. But whenever I so much as sit down to watch some TV, or read, I feel an overwhelming guilt at my 'laziness' creeping in.

Over the years, in developing a constant need to be academically perfect, I have lost the ability to recuperate when I need it. The itch to spend my 'sick day' doing homework for the next week, or instantly catching up on what I'd missed, didn't help me recover at all. And the guilt at staying home yesterday mentally forced me to go in today, something that has left me feeling even worse than yesterday.

The real issue is that I measure my worth against my productivity and ability to achieve. If I slip up, get a sub-par grade, or spend a day doing nothing, I feel worthless. This is, obviously, incredibly unhealthy.

Continuing this way for the next two years of A-Levels will inevitably lead to a burnout, or worse. And I obviously don't want that. But I don't want to be anything less than perfect either. The current battle is making sure the rational side wins out.

That's what therapy is for, and that's what I'm working incredibly hard on. Luckily, I have great friends who keep me (when I'm not being stubborn which is sadly a lot) in check and look out for me. Without the constant reminders from them that it is okay to put yourself first, which I am trying to internalise, I'm not sure where I would be.

So I suppose the message of this essay is meant as much for myself as for anyone else: it's okay to take a break, and it's also alright to not always be at your best. Prioritise yourself, where, and if, you can.

- Fi

Image credit to @thisthingtheycallrecovery on Instagram

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