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How to overcome thoughts about "not being productive" during holidays and breaks?

Hi,
During the first year of high school, I began having thoughts during winter, spring or summer break about how I'm not being "productive", till now I still get those thoughts and I'm in university. It stresses me out and refrains me from fully enjoying my holiday/break. I'm afraid that these thoughts will continue after I graduate and have a job. Common phrases that pop up in my head are:
-> You should get ahead of the curriculum.
-> You should do online courses to gain more skills for the future.
-> You should be productive, this isn't being productive.
-> You have done nothing all day.
-> You've got so many assignments upcoming.

+25 Karma if successful
From: You
To: Friend
Subject: Career question for you

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david’s Answer

Hi, Shamma,
This question seems closely tied to your prior question. My first suggestion is to consider where this pressure to succeed is coming from. It is not uncommon for students to enter college with high expectations from family members, expectations that put undue stress on the student. Such pressure can cause the student to then feel guilty for having any time for relaxation, fun, or any activity classified as “non-productive.” If that scenario relates to you, then part of your resolution may be a discussion with family members on their expectations and its impact on you. Another approach is to spend some time revisiting your goal. My inference is that your goal is not to be the best, smartest, most achieving student, but to achieve the education to prepare you for your future. The first goal would demand all of your time, while the second accepts that the goal is not all consuming. The stress you feel tends to dissolve, once you remove external expectations. I wish you the very best.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for the advice. Shamma
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Ivanova’s Answer

Hi Shamma,

The first thing that you need to do to moderate these thoughts is to determine what "productivity" means to you. Similarly to "success", these two concepts are subjective and will always have different meanings for everyone.

For some people, being successful means owning their own company and managing employees, while for others, being successful might mean having a boss and a 9 to 5 job that pays a check every two weeks. And there is nothing wrong with either scenario because it all comes back to our individual goals, perspectives, needs, and lifestyle.
It's the same thing when it comes to productivity, so start by asking yourself today, "what does productivity mean to me?" and "what makes me feel productive when I am in school?"
When you have determined an answer to these questions, it will be easier to think further.

Second, give yourself time to know yourself. Get to know your most outstanding skills, your life interests, the things that make you forget about time when you do them, the things that you don't like or that stress you, and the things that relax you. Think as deeply as you can; don't focus on college or future jobs, think about your personal interests, your favourite features, the food that always makes you happy, or the places where you would like to go someday.

With that in mind, my third recommendation is to develop a hobby. Are you a good singer? Try singing while playing an instrument. You've always been curious about how to work with wood and tools? Why don't you start a project? Make a wooden box. Do you want to do stuff outside your house? Try volunteering, go have lunch with your friends, enroll in painting classes, visit the library or a museum, or simply take a long walk.
Then ask yourself "what can I do to feel productive at home?", "what will make me feel that I was productive today?" Before you go to sleep, you can also set up a schedule for your next day's activities, or make a list of the things you would like to do during your break.

Remember that it is also important to listen to your body and mind. We all need time to rest, just as we need time to eat and hydrate. If you feel tired, it's okay to stay in bed binge-watching a TV show, and it is absolutely okay to pause for an hour or two when you study. Give your mind and body what they are asking you for.
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is amazing! I really needed it. Shamma
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Hassan’s Answer

I think you're doing the right thing by being proactive and looking ahead.

They key is to balance it with down-time and being able to relax. So during breaks maybe set aside a couple of hours a day to work ahead and then relax the rest of the day. Maybe 'take off' off a day or even a week to relax and then work the next day or week. Maybe take a class or two in the summer to actually graduate early.

You have to try to see what works for you.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Hassan! Shamma
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Gabriel’s Answer

Miss Shamma,

Hello! My name is Gabriel…I work at an American university in the financial aid administration department. Have done so for twenty years. I have no other official credentials otherwise…so please take what I say with a grain of salt…but I DO care…hence…

Nothing you suggested is a “bad” idea. I saw my dad pass away in a train accident when I was six. He always wanted to be a teacher. He took that out on my sister, brother and I. We were pushed harder than other kids.

The advice my colleagues have offered is spot-on. Please accept my apologies…but I think I have some lay-person experience. What you said pops up in your head...about what you should do…

I refuse to pretend that my word means squat in that department. But I just wanted you to know that the fact that you are questioning things….and asking for advice/responses…is brilliant.

Please try not to be so hard on yourself. I’m OCD…I have the world’s most beautiful wife that reminds me….but I do the cooking so…ah-ha!

Things will work out…but just reach out if you need a support system. I’ve never met you, and again…grain of salt…but I care…as if you were my daughter. I made the mistake of taking a “semester off”. Lasted nine years. No one was there to tell me of the results...

Please…breathe…you got this! I’m paid for 37.5 hours of work on salary and I put in about 80. I made that choice...but please…you have to think of your own well-being.

Only you can find your own happiness...seems to me you deserve it...
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for taking the time to respond and I'm sorry for your loss. I really appreciate your heartfelt message, I feel like everyone needs one from time to time, a reminder that we are human. Thank you for this Shamma
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Lauryn’s Answer

As someone who has experienced similar feelings towards productivity, I understand the importance of navigating this challenge in a healthy and sustainable way. I want to encourage you to prioritize your mental health and self-care during your university breaks. By making self-care activities a necessary part of your daily routine, you can ensure that you have time for them and feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete them. While it may seem counterintuitive, taking regular breaks and engaging in self-care activities can actually improve your productivity in the long run.

There are many ways to practice self-care, such as reading a book for leisure, journaling, spending time with loved ones, practicing meditation or mindfulness exercises, taking a walk or working out, and getting some sunshine. You can also set specific goals for these activities to make them more fulfilling, such as reading a certain number of pages per day, spending a certain amount of time meditating, tracking your steps. etc.

Remember that rest is essential for both your physical and mental health. Taking a break from your usual routine can help you recharge and return to your studies with renewed energy and focus.

I used a lot of my summer and winter breaks taking classes or doing extra school work so that I could graduate early. This ended up not being worth it because I skipped events, bonding with friends, and making memories. I also began my career immediately after graduating and felt burnout within only a few months of starting. Don't make the same mistake I did by using your breaks solely to be "productive." Instead, savor this time in your life and use it to create lasting memories with friends and loved ones before you begin your career. Ultimately, prioritizing your self-care now will help you avoid burnout and achieve greater success in your future career.
Thank you comment icon Loved reading this, thanks! Shamma
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Sieffedin’s Answer

There's a lot of really well written and long answers here.
Honestly simplest advice, start small. Don't try to finish a whole chapter in one day, just read/ look over a page or two of anything related to the quizzes I'm sure you have after the vacation.
That will start a snowball effect to push you to aim for more and build that habit.
Good luck and Ramadan kareem.
Thank you comment icon Thank you and Ramadan Kareem. Shamma
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Anthony’s Answer

Hello Shamma,
There are reasons those are call 'holidays and breaks'.
By asking this question, you have shown that you are a responsible student. So I will give you this advise. Do not think that you are not productive when you are not doing anything. (Someone may even argue that the act of not doing anything itself is doing something.) You are recharging your mind to be more productive when you do works and avoid burn out. I know you are a high achiever and very smart. You have a life time to be all that. But you only have a few years left to be a teenager. So do not put pressure on yourself. Be a kid and go out and have fun with your friends.

Take care.
Anthony.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much! Shamma
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Rebecca’s Answer

Thank you for your question. This is a very good.
Holiday is supposed to relax and enjoy. At the same time, you can also do something good and interesting.
Below are my suggestions:
1. Use the time to do some volunteering work. You can help others and also enrich your cv
2. Attend some classes related to your hobbies
3. Organise some orientation activities for the new joiners of the college
4. Review the course material and prepare for next academic year
Hope this helps! Good Luck!
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the help. Shamma
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Chirayu’s Answer

It's common to feel pressure to be productive all the time, but it's important to remember that rest and relaxation are also essential for your well-being. Here are some tips to help you overcome these thoughts and enjoy your holidays and breaks - Instead of putting pressure on yourself to be constantly productive, set realistic expectations for what you can accomplish during your break. Make a list of things you would like to do, but don't feel like you have to do everything on the list. Be kind and understanding to yourself. Remind yourself that it's okay to take a break and that you deserve time to relax and recharge. Plan activities that you enjoy and look forward to. This could be anything from reading a book, going for a walk, watching a movie, or spending time with friends and family. It's important to take breaks throughout the day, even if it's just for a few minutes. Use this time to do something that makes you happy or relaxes you. Remember that everyone's break looks different, and it's not productive to compare yourself to others. Focus on what you need and what makes you happy. When you notice negative thoughts creeping in, take a moment to practice mindfulness. Focus on your breathing or do a quick meditation to help calm your mind. Remember that rest and self-care are just as important as productivity. Make sure to prioritize your well-being during your break.
Thank you comment icon I appreciate your support, Chirayu Shamma
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Adrian’s Answer

If you are struggling with thoughts about not being productive, here are some strategies that you can try to overcome these thoughts:

Practice self-compassion: Instead of beating yourself up for not being productive, try to be kind and understanding towards yourself. Acknowledge that it's okay to have unproductive days, and remind yourself that your worth is not solely determined by your productivity.

Set realistic goals: It's important to set realistic and achievable goals for yourself. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and discouraged when you don't meet unrealistic expectations.

Prioritize tasks: Prioritize the tasks that are most important and focus on completing those first. This will help you feel more accomplished and productive.

Take breaks: Taking breaks is essential for staying productive. Taking regular breaks can help you recharge your energy and focus better when you return to your work.

Celebrate small victories: Acknowledge and celebrate your small victories, no matter how small they may be. This will help you stay motivated and positive.

Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness can help you stay focused on the present moment and avoid getting caught up in negative thoughts. You can practice mindfulness through meditation, deep breathing, or simply taking a few moments to be fully present in the moment.

Remember, it's normal to have unproductive days or moments. Don't be too hard on yourself, and try to implement these strategies to help you overcome negative thoughts and stay productive.
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