I’ve been anxious ever since I was a kid.
In high school, I remember putting an unnecessary amount of stress on myself. I was involved in as many activities and extracurriculars as I could be, and would get trapped year after year in a vicious cycle of burnout. I was always trying to be productive, but what exactly is productivity?
When I eventually reached my breaking point each year, I would take some time off from school. After returning, I wouldn’t change anything about my workload — I wasn’t addressing the root of the problem. I told myself I didn’t have time to change anything or take care of myself — I had to continue to be productive, whatever that meant.
Einstein once said that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome was the definition of insanity. Looking back now, I can definitely see my habits were insane.
Not insane in a literal sense, but it baffles me now how I truly never saved enough time for myself. I was always doing homework late into the night after coming back from volleyball practice, working on a project for leadership, or doing work for all of the clubs I was in. The only time I felt okay was over the summer when I could sleep in, work on my art, and avoid school — pretty much the only time I could spend with myself.
At the beginning of this semester, I thought, “I’ve done all the work I needed to do to get to UC Berkeley, now what?” I decided I was going to try and break my previous cycle of insanity and decided to be more productive.
Despite the fact that I’ve only been at UC Berkeley for a short period of time, I can see how competitive the environment is and the prevalence of hustle culture. Everyone always needs to have the best internship, double major and be involved in every club possible. Hustle culture teaches us that we need to put our success before our well-being.
Where does this leave students who’ve had to work harder than everyone else to get into this school? Tired.
When I first got to Cal, I had to fight with myself not to compare my success to others. At a school where everyone is at the top of the top, one feels the need to do more and be the best of the best.
I’ve decided I’m done sacrificing my mental health and personal sanity for a perfect grade or academic validation. Don’t get me wrong, I like academic validation as much as the next person, but I’m done procrastinating and staying up till 6 a.m. trying to make an assignment perfect, especially when I could be doing something more productive and better for my mental health, like sleeping.
I’m doing my best — and sometimes that means my best is doing the bare minimum.
Productivity for me is anything I’m doing for myself. Self-care is productive, sleeping is productive, doing my homework is productive, and going to work is productive.
Despite my busy schedule, I’ve made a conscious effort to take care of myself.
I like to go on walks with friends when I’ve had a hard day or even when I’ve had a great day. Just going outside, getting some fresh air and a change of scenery feels amazing.
I started taking advantage of the Recreational Sports Facility on campus. I go to volleyball open gyms, discovering they do wonders for my mental health. Forcing yourself to work out can be hard, but it’s easier with friends and doing a sport that you love.
Journaling also does wonders for my happiness. I carry my journal with me and write when I can. In between classes, at work, right before bed, everywhere. I put all my thoughts onto paper, making sure they aren’t all bottled inside.
Self-care is individual. When looking for new ways to engage in productive self-care, I asked all of my friends what they do to take care of themselves. For some, it was to do a face mask, go partying, play video games or bake. It’s all about finding what works best for you.
I talk about being productive and taking care of myself, but it’s an ongoing struggle. I still struggle with feeling insecure, especially when thinking I should be doing more and “grinding” more, but I try to remind myself that I don’t have to measure success and productivity solely through my professional and academic goals.
I used to be extremely hard on myself for not being productive and sometimes I still do. Now I am constantly productive, on my own terms and not in the way that people expect.