It's been about two months now that we have all been quarantined in our homes due to COVID-19. Our lives have been flipped upside down. Many people have had to leave their jobs, their schools, or their friends. Unless you are an essential worker or on the front lines (thank you to those that are), you are spending a lot of time at home. Much more than usual, and probably much more than you'd like. This also means you have a lot more time on your hands than you would usually have.
Due to this fact, some have seen this time as an opportunity to get started on or finish a project that they've been putting off. There isn't anything else to do, right? On the other hand, there's plenty of people who haven't felt this rush of motivation. They haven't picked up a new language or started a new project. Twitter will have you thinking that these people are just lazy. Other sources say that it is completely fine not to push yourself during a global pandemic. So, is there a right way to live in quarantine? Is there a level of productivity that should be reached?
Short answer: No
Many people have more time on there hands than they usually would. Many might even have the privilege of having the resources to move forward with a project they have been putting off. The fact is, that many do not have that time or privilege. As mentioned previously, essential workers and those in hospitals working on the front lines are busier than ever. To assume that everyone is spending all of their time at home, in the perfect environment to inspire productivity, as if quarantine is some sort of vacation, is simply not true.
Once that has been considered, we must also consider that even if people suddenly have much more time on their hands, that does not require them to measure up to some idealized perception of productivity. Yes, we are in quarantine and with a lot more time on our hands. We are also in the middle of a global pandemic. People are sick, the economy is suffering, everything we are used to has to be done differently now. It is not exactly the most low-stress environment for anyone.
Longer answer: The mindset that you must be productive at this time can actually be very unhealthy
While I commend people have taken this time to work on something they find productive, this isn't the case for everyone and that is ok. Because what is much more important than proving that you have been productive is your mental health. Like I said, this is high-stress time. It is very likely that most peoples' mental health isn't at an all-time high. We feel isolated, tired, and afraid. Too much media consumption leads to more stress, not enough leads to confusion. We aren't able to do many of the activities that we love to do, and honestly, it can feel pretty hopeless at times. So if all you can do some days is wake up and do something that makes you feel a little better, that is ok. You do not need to be writing the next great American novel or mastering a foreign language. It is never healthy to measure your worth based on what you produce, but especially in the circumstances in which we are living now.
Don't just take my word for it. Trauma Specialist Alaa Hijazi discusses this in a recent Facebook post,
"I thought I was spared the horrid 'motivational' phrase going around now 'If you don't come out of this with a new skill, you never lacked time, you lacked discipline' until I saw it on my local yoga studio page. As a trauma psychologist, I am utterly utterly horrified, enraged, and bewildered about how people can believe and spread this phrase in good conscience. We are going through a collective trauma, that is bringing up profound grief, loss, panic over livelihoods, panic over loss of lives of loved ones. People's nervous systems are barely coping with the sense of threat and vigilance for safety, or alternating with feeling numb and frozen and shutting down in response to it all. People are trying to survive poverty, fear, retriggering of trauma, retriggering of other mental health difficulties. Yet, someone has the nerve to accuse someone of lack of discipline for not learning a new skill, and by a yoga teacher! This cultural obsession with [capitalistic] 'productivity' and always spending time in a 'productive' 'fruitful' way is absolutely maddening. What we need is more self compassion, more gentle acceptance of all the difficult emotions coming up for us now, more focus on gentle ways to soothe ourselves and our pain and the pain of loved ones around us, not a whipping by some random fucker making us feel worse about ourselves in the name of 'motivation'.
So, if you look back on the last two months and feel guilty for accomplishing less than what you'd like, or than what you're being told to, don't. We are all processing this in different ways. If being productive and taking on new projects is your way to feel accomplished and to keep your mind busy, keep doing it. If watching Netflix for hours and face timing your friends to talk about nothing makes you feel better, keep doing it. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health in this pandemic. Take care of yourselves!