The Surprising Reason Why You’re Feeling Unproductive
At some point in our lives, we’ve experienced the feeling unproductive and stuck. Despite our best efforts, there are times when it’s hard to get (and stay) motivated.
In a culture that places a high emphasis on being productive, many of us have become addicted to busyness. There’s an enormous pressure to meet these high productivity standards and an even greater fear of underachievement. All you have to do is spend two minutes scrolling through social media and you’ll see different ways people are winning in the world: job accomplishments, fitness transformations, home renovations and the list goes on.
Of course, it feels good to check things off our to-do lists, but it’s unrealistic to be productive all the time. Sometimes we don’t have the extra energy needed to push ourselves. Sometimes we need to mentally and physically disconnect to recharge our batteries.
But there’s actually a bigger problem. Many people attribute feeling unproductive to the wrong reasons. For example, you may assume you’re unmotivated because you’re unhappy with your job. Or you believe you’re exhausted because of day-to-day life stress.
While these are valid reasons for feeling unproductive, there’s one that’s often overlooked: loneliness.
How Feeling Unproductive Can Really Be About Loneliness
When people feel a sense of belonging and emotional connection, it has a positive ripple effect on all aspects of their lives: career, health, finances and more. However, when people are feeling lonely, they struggle in these areas.
In fact, according to research, loneliness is associated with poor job performance. People who felt isolated also felt less motivated in their career – which resulted in decreased productivity.
Long before the pandemic, there was a rise in the number of people feeling disconnected. In recent months, it’s gotten even worse with unemployment skyrocketing and election stress.
With my clients, I’ve noticed one of the most common reactions to stress is self-isolation. When friends call to talk, they are feeling so drained that they don’t pick up the phone. They say things like, “I can’t help” and “I don’t want to be a downer.”
So, rather than coming together during challenging times, many people are doing the opposite and suffering in silence.
In order to avoid feeling lonely, they are distracting themselves. And even if these are healthy distractions – exercise, meditation, DIY projects – you are still postponing the inner work it takes to heal.
In other words, people aren’t working through their emotions and feeling the loneliness.
4 Steps to Work Through Loneliness
1. Understand what loneliness is and what it is not
There are people who spend a lot of time alone who are not lonely. Loneliness is not about the number of people you have surrounding you. Because you can be standing in a crowded room and still feel lonely. You can be in a relationship and still feel lonely.
Loneliness is less about outer connection and more about inner connection. Another person will never be able fill a void or cure a deep emotional wound. Only you can do that.
2. Observe your feelings without judgement
Loneliness is associated with shame, which is why it’s hard for people to admit the truth to themselves. When many of us think of loneliness, the thoughts that come to mind are: “I don’t have friends,” and “nobody likes me.” And this feeds into the deeply rooted belief that “I’m unworthy” and “something is wrong with me.” This causes self-isolation and the negative cycle continues.
By taking a step back, you’ll see the loneliness is telling you something. You’re feeling lonely for a reason. And so, the question you should be asking yourself is: Why am I feeling so lonely?
3. Sit still and journal
There is meaning and importance in sitting still. In order to understand your emotions, you need to quiet your mind. Rather than finding a distraction when loneliness creeps in, try journaling.
While this will be uncomfortable at first, commit to feeling the loneliness 100%. Simply let it pass through. Write down what caused you to feel triggered and the thoughts that followed.
4. Create a deeper connection with yourself
Studies confirm that our psychological well-being is directly tied to our subjective sense of connection toward others. In other words, it’s not the size of our social circle that matters.
The bottom line: loneliness starts and ends with you. It’s not how many people you are connected to. It’s how connected you are to yourself.
If you’ve been feeling unproductive because of loneliness, you’re not alone. The good news is that you have more control than you think. By following these steps, you’ll feel empowered and better prepared the next time loneliness strikes.