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Don’t feel like getting things done right now? You are not alone!
If you’ve found yourself trying to decide whether you should bake bread, join a meditation webinar, create a color-coded home-school schedule, or just curl up in a ball and cry, you’re not alone.
As we stay at home in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, we are being inundated not only with a storm of anxiety-inducing news but with an onslaught of suggestions for ‘making the most’ of our (alleged) extra time. There’s a huge push of people thinking that because we are home right now, we can be productive and that we’re all going to be able to stay as focused as we were a month or so ago, but that’s just not the case for everyone.
It requires a lot of energy
There are a number of issues working against the accomplishment of any tasks, so if you feel pulled in multiple directions and are having trouble focusing, it’s completely understandable.
It’s difficult to be productive during a crisis: We are going through a collective trauma experience. We are experiencing upheaval, fear and grief caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Anxiety is up, depression is up. From a productivity standpoint, it’s challenging because we’re navigating these huge emotional hurdles with an uncertainty that you and I – like most of us – have never really experienced in our lifetime.
The time and energy expended on adjusting our entire lives to this new normal – which may mean working from home while assuming the role of home-school teacher, caring for ill family members, sanitizing our groceries and dealing with the fallout of mass layoffs – are magnifying the intense emotions. None of these things are setting us up for high productivity or high performance.
For some populations, additional stress such as job loss, discrimination and access to health care may amplify anxiety even more. There are some immigrant communities experiencing backlash. People struggling to survive or afraid that accessing health care could lead to deportation aren’t looking for tips on re-organizing their family photo albums or kitchen drawers.
Because individual circumstances differ and people process difficult experiences in a variety of ways, there’s no ‘right way’ to get through this other than allowing yourself to be your own way.
You are not obligated to accept every live-stream yoga or virtual happy hour invitation. If you’re carrying any guilt about not producing your best work, writing a screenplay, learning to quilt or putting together a 1000-piece puzzle, you have permission to let that go.
Everybody copes differently with this pandemic
Simply respect the range of coping styles and view people’s behavior as their way to manage their anxiety that way you can also feel less judgmental – of yourself and others.
Being productive can be a coping mechanism: It’s also OK to dive into a household project, pick up a new hobby or sign up for an online course, if that’s what you’re drawn to. In the midst of something that is so frightening and can be somewhat traumatic, people often funnel their anxiety into productivity.
Being productive can be therapeutic in turbulent times. However – be warned that this coping mechanism can be counterproductive, even damaging in excess. Be careful not to overextend, simply acknowledge what you’re feeling. That doesn’t mean you need to wallow in fear or self-pity, but labeling your feelings – recognizing you’re sad or overwhelmed in some moments – will allow you to function better.
While you might have a surge of creative inspiration to complete a Pinterest project and cook a gourmet meal today, don’t be surprised if you feel differently tomorrow. Be prepared and OK with the fact that you’re going to feel different every day. Going through the stress and upheaval of the current Covid 19 pandemic, the lock-down, the isolation and disruption that comes with it is a one-day-at-a-time kind of experience. There are going to be days when you’re less focused and more overwhelmed. And that is OK. This is a very stressful time and you shouldn’t be operating on all cylinders all the time.
Have compassion for yourself – and others
I recommend you to lower the bar a bit right now and temper your expectations for the time being. Start with compassion for yourself, and then extend the same to others. It’s completely OK, not because we don’t have high standards, but because you and I need to understand that during this period we need to give ourselves a little grace.
That may mean starting your day with a simple three-point to-do list. Simply focus on getting those tasks done and then give yourself permission for a break.
And if you’re feeling stuck, it is perfectly acceptable to take some time to try something new. You don’t need to master everything all the time and every day; simply doing something different can activate other parts of your brain and help you think more clearly when you sit back down to do some productive work.
It is OK to do nothing, too: Don’t underestimate the power of doing absolutely nothing if the mood strikes you, because everyone’s situation is different.
Especially if that is an option for you – for example if you are in a situation where you don’t have to work or you want to spend time with your family or if you can scale back and just take some pressure off a bit – I say – go for i!.
This could help you not just in the present right now, but also in the future.
I strongly believe that we are at a point where compassionate self-care is one of the first things you should implement because that will ensure that when things settle down, when the rubble is cleared and the dust settles a bit, we are able to be productive because we didn’t try to just grind through this whole situation.
We need to be sure we’re doing things that will help us navigate this Coronavirus crisis not just from a productivity perspective but from a collective human standpoint.
Try to find joy
And in the downtime, don’t be afraid to find joy, because that has tremendous benefits as well.
When you feel good or nurtured or feel like you’re discovering things about your relationships or yourself that elevates and improves you as a human being. And it extends to other people around you, because despite social distancing, we’re all very connected.
Although there is a tremendous amount of stress, heartbreak and fear right now, it’s OK to experience and enjoy positive emotions because we need them right now more than ever.
You can have two very different, seemingly competing feelings at the same time. It is perfectly normal and acceptable to enjoy certain moments. However; that does not exclude that you are also feeling stressed, scared, overwhelmed, sad, worried or anxious at the very same time.
Allowing yourself the precious gift of pleasurable, compassionate and loving moments will recharge and replenish your emotional inventory, so you are also better equipped to help others.
It will take time
Let me put it this way – getting through this Coronavirus pandemic crisis is like a marathon, not a short, sharp sprint.
It may help you to even think of this time as a relay; we don’t all have to be running at the same moment and at the same pace. If you are a health care worker, you may need to put your head down and work with full concentration and efficiency for a period and then allow yourself to process your feelings later.
That is survival mode, and that is perfectly acceptable, too. Because when the crisis quietens down you may find yourself left with the trauma and then it is not too late to reach out for help or find ways to understand and channel your emotions.
If you are someone who wants to produce or contribute in some way, but you don’t have the energy and determination right now, there’s no need to push yourself or beat yourself up about that either. Because there will be time and opportunities to offer help and support, to do work, to produce not just right now in the eye of the storm of this pandemic, but in the days, weeks and months later on.
Give yourself permission to pace yourself.