Why I’m not focusing on productivity right now.

By now, if you go on the internet on a regular basis, you’ve probably seen one of those headlines. Or ten. You know, the ones about “how to avoid gaining 10 pounds while self-isolating“, or “how to stay on top of your cleaning when everyone works at home“. Or “how to avoid distractions and stay busy during self-isolation“. The articles that tell you it’s important to keep your morning habits and not give in to the siren of “working from home in sweatpants instead of dressing up for work every day”.

The perfect self-isolating woman those articles describe us wakes up at 5 in the morning, does her gym exercises every day, cleans her apartment, takes the dog on a walk but doesn’t see anyone, respects every confinement rule and spends the energy necessary to ensure everyone in her household does too. She feeds everyone, does the laundry, teaches the children so they don’t miss anything while school’s closed, and works from home at her 9 to 5 job.

Image by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

I’m not going to lie – I wish I was as productive as all those articles want us to be. I wish I could wake up early in the morning, make hot chocolate, get dressed quickly, work all day and still have a clean apartment.

If I was a perfect person, I would use the quiet hours of the morning to work on a personal project, like writing a book about self-isolation and the terrible hardships of confinement (I’m not joking, there’s a ton of people out there doing that – rich people who left their house to go to their vacation home and who think their “self-isolation journals” are full of amazing insight on the daily struggles of the financially unchallenged. Seriously. And those journals aren’t even well-written.).

But I’m not, and I’m betting you aren’t too. And that’s okay.

I’ve read on social media that being creative is difficult for a lot of people right now. Finding inspiration to make art, write a blog post, film a video, etc. seems to be much harder than usual – and that’s normal. It’s hard to find creativity when you’re constantly worrying about the next disaster coming around, or if you’re going to put yourself and your parents / children in danger by going out to buy groceries. You’re spending all your energy on staying alive and staying safe – it’s not surprising that there’s not a lot left for anything else.

We’re living in a terrifying time, where fears of death, illness and financial hardships are even more present than usual, and it’s unrealistic (and borderline dangerous) to expect people to keep the appearance of normalcy when everything around them isn’t. Millions of people have lost their jobs in the last few weeks, are struggling to make ends meet while trying to protect themselves as much as possible. Our health care workers are doing everything they can with insufficient PPE and equipment, and the supply chain is struggling to produce enough masks and gloves for each and every one of them. There is nothing normal about our situation.

Sure, it’d be nice if you could learn something new during a holiday, “quench your thirst for knowledge”, write a research paper or make a full dinner set with your own hands. During a holiday, you’d have all the time you want, and no worries or obligations other than resting and having a good time.

But this isn’t a holiday. It’s a pandemic, and if the only thing you can do today after making sure you’ve eaten and slept is watch the Dragon Prince on Netflix for three hours ? That’s okay too. Your coping strategies don’t need to be the same as everybody else’s.

You don’t need to force yourself into a burnout just to make sure you’re doing everything you’re “supposed to” during theses trying times.

So if wearing sweatpants at home and playing Animal Crossing New Horizons keeps your spirits up and helps you cope with the increased anxiety and stress of these last few weeks ? Go ahead. If you want to bake sourdough bread and post pictures of your dog on social media ? We’d love to see them !

And if you’re struggling, please don’t hesitate to ask for help. Mental health professionals are here for you.

Source : Infographic by the government of Australia.

If you’re in Canada, here’s some information on mental health resources that can provide help during the pandemic :

  • Mental Health First Aid Canada has produced a Self-care and resilience guide to help people deal with mental health challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic. Find more information here.
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada has created a free PDF sheet on Taking care of your mental health during the pandemic. You can download the document here. (The text part of this document isn’t specific to Canadians, only the resources part, with the contact numbers of mental health associations that continue to offer their services).

Stay safe,