Burn Out & Toxic Positivity

DISCLAIMER: Without a doubt, I am beyond grateful to have a job. I am grateful to still have a job and to have had a job for majority of the pandemic. This blog post does not deny or erase my gratitude. Instead, it highlights a major challenge: navigating toxic positivity in the workplace, a pandemic and your eroding mental health.

I’m tired. I’ve been tired. I’m tired of being tired.

And I know, I know, this is a common feeling for us all right now.

“It’s COVID!” Someone will remind me, as if I’ve forgetton. “Everyone is feeling the strain and the sadness.”

I work in a people-oriented environment and like most people-oriented jobs, my workplace thrives on positivity. And this is fine. I’ve always been able to get it up, scream and smile when the time is right. Although, I wouldn’t really call myself a pessimist I also can’t call myself an optimist, at least not right now. For many of us working from home, the rise and grind is particularily challenging. Not only are you bound to your house, if you’re in lockdown or quarantine, you’re also navigating the current blurred lines between home life and work life.

Although I’m not working from home—my workplace requires me to get up and go in—rising each day has become more and more difficult. Changes in business hours have made my days shorter, meaning less time for self-care and mindfulness. When businesses are open I’m working and when businesses are closed I’m going home.

I have always had bold lines of demarkation that divide my work life from my community work and my spiritual nourishment. With many of my community centres closed and stay-at-home orders in place, I have been trying and failing miserably to seek spiritual nourishment at work. This hasn’t been working for a few reasons:

1) Work is not my Religion. Work is not meant to nourish me, or give me a sense of community. It is transactional. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t made incredible, long-lasting relationships and friendships with the people I’ve worked with but at the end of the day I signed a contract to be here. There may be mixups that tell me otherwise, but I have to remember that reading that self-help book on an office zoom call isn’t to make me a better person but to make me a better employee. Take your full breaks, go home on time, take your paid days off. Your mental health will thank you.

2) Toxic Positivity. This is no one’s fault. It’s not my manager’s, it’s not their manager’s and isn’t the CEO’s. This is capitalism. I mean someone could argue that this is someone’s fault. Like, why aren’t we being more considerate of the current global health crisis and the inevitable financial strain and mental erosion this has on all of us? Why aren’t we being kinder, and softer and more generous? Great question. My answer might be a pessimistic one, but businesses want to get their coin. My CEO are loyal to shareholders and banks. Modern workplaces often use positivity, self-help book clubs and countless others as motivation tools for you to thrive, work harder and do more. I’m sick of hearing about the law of attraction and “if you want it, it’s yours!” and “if you can dream it you can have it!” If that method works for you, amazing. But please do not tell people who are struggling and/or living on the margins or in the midst of a life-changing mental health crisis that if they dream it they can have it. This method of motivation can be incredibly tone deaf, hurtful and belittling. This takes me to my next point Toxic Productivity.

3) Toxic Productivity. The expectation that I should be able to do the same or more while so much in my life has changed as a result of the pandemic is hard to bear. It actually brings tears to my eyes to think that we can ask so much of each other when we’ve given up so much already. They are huge life changes that I’ve faced as a result of COVID-19. I have also been my own worst critic in thinking that I should’ve been able to write a book, learn a new language or take some part-time courses while we were in lockdown. Honestly most days I can’t even get out of bed. I’m disinterested and less focused. I’m tired when I’ve slept all day. I haven’t developed good pandemic coping mechanisms that feed me the way I need to be fed right now. And maybe I won’t. But I’ve put less focus on thriving and more focus on surviving. So let me repeat: take your full break, take your paid days off, go home on time.

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