Being “Productive” in Quarantine

I wanted to write a bit about a concept that I know is not that original, but that has been on my mind a lot lately. While we’ve all been quarantined to our homes for the past month, there have been waves of varying levels of coping, productivity, and countless desperate methods of entertainment. The first week seemed to be a lot of wine drinking and FaceTiming and Tiktok dancing. Then, as time progressed, most people realized that this might actually go on for awhile, and that they couldn’t live in that “I don’t know what day it is, and I can’t remember the last time I washed my hair, and I’m drunk for the fourth night in a row” state forever.

What I’m talking about today is the idea of “productivity”, and of how we “should” be spending our days during this time. There were a bunch of memes and tweets going around about using this time to our advantage, and at first, I was like “yeah, totally – this is a time to get our shit together, find hobbies, work on things we normally neglect, and just better ourselves in general”. There was one tweet in particular that read “If you don’t come out of this quarantine with either: 1.) a new skill, 2.) starting what you’ve been putting off like a new business, 3.) more knowledge, you didn’t ever lack the time, you lacked the discipline”. While this at first sounds like a valid thing to say (with v poor grammar, just saying), it’s important to note that it does not recognize the vastly different experiences that each individual is having with this.

Personally, I entered this period with a lengthy list of to-do’s and things I wanted to work on in different areas of my life. And after days of getting down on myself because I wasn’t learning how to knit, and because I could’ve been doing more in my at-home workouts, and I didn’t feel motivated to post on my blog more often, even though I had the time, I finally found a new perspective.

As pointed out in this video, titled “5 Things I’ve Learned in Therapy That Might Help You Right Now” (which I recommend watching/listening to), this is a pandemic – not a long weekend. So while some of us are happiest and are coping best by using this time to read, clean, workout, and try out new recipes, it is PERFECTLY OKAY AND VALID for us to also struggle with motivation, because honestly, we have more important things to worry about.

We cannot forget that in normal times, we are all different people with different coping mechanisms, and different ideas of what a routine looks like. So why do we think that this would suddenly change because we are living in a pandemic? For some, this is a time of extremely high anxiety, and for some, the biggest concern is whether their immunocompromised family member will contract the virus – not whether they perfect their banana bread or learn a new language. Some people struggle to get out of bed when we’re NOT living in a pandemic, let alone when we’re being bombarded with frightening news 24/7.

Many people have lost their jobs, or are suddenly working from home in their tiny apartment, and are struggling to adjust to this new lifestyle. Some people are worried about their own or their family members’ health, and are incredibly frustrated to see people they know who are not doing their part in this. While it is most definitely a time in which many of us have an increased amount of free time, it is also a period of increased stress. So excuse me if I haven’t gotten around to Marie Kondo-ing my entire apartment.

Now, I’m not here to shade the people who have been sticking to daily routines and “using this time to their advantage”. I’ve been that person some days. I’ve tried new recipes and I’ve done home workouts and I’ve spent 3 hours cleaning my makeup palettes because that’s something you literally ONLY do when you’re in quarantine. But I’ve also been the person who stays up until 4am doing absolutely nothing, and sleeps until noon, and wears the same pajamas for far too long.

The point is that we’re all dealing with this differently, and however you’re dealing with it is (hopefully) what’s best for YOU. Some people thrive on routine, and it’s what keeps them in a good mental space. But for some people, getting out of bed, brushing their hair, and making one healthy meal is enough of an accomplishment.

I’m now trying to stop myself every time I feel those thoughts seep in, saying “I should be doing this, this, and that” or “ugh I wasted so much time doing nothing today”. It’s not like those thoughts change the fact that I wasn’t “productive” that day – all they do is make me feel worse about myself. I’ve been starting each day by writing a few things I’d like to do that day in my planner, because doing so gives me a sense of normalcy. These things might be larger tasks like organizing my closet, or smaller ones such as reading or FaceTiming a friend. This way, not only does work, cleaning, etc. make me feel productive, but so do things that make me happy and that are good for my mental health. And if I don’t end up doing everything on my list, IT’S OKAY. Because my job right now is simply to stay healthy and to stay sane.

So can we please ditch this idea that we all have to be these highly motivated, accomplished individuals who have clearer skin, are aligned with our truest selves, and have started a new side business by the time we’re allowed to have coffee in a public setting again? K cool.

 

With love and lattes,

and hand sanitizer,

 

Jenna.

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