Covid-19 has overtaken every aspect of our lives – academically, physically, socially; normalcy has come to an unexpected end by our side, and sadly, we don’t know when it will return. Unquestionably, fear currently permeates our society, and it spares no one. Unfortunately, over the past few months it has become demonstrably clear that the ‘ideal’ of how to deal with the lockdown is no longer possible.
If social media has become a source of boredom relief, like me, you may have seen an increase in conversations about the notion of “productivity.” Whether it’s friends showing off the pages and pages of work they’ve completed, or motivational messages about what you can do with the free time you have, the rhetoric around productivity is growing. more glamorized and glorified. However, over time I wonder if this is really a positive thing – can productivity be a detrimental concept?
As a penultimate year student, the increased workload during this period did not go unnoticed; being granted delay after delay began to take its toll. At the start of the confinement, I was fortunately in a privileged position to be able to enjoy the free time – having taken exams the year before, I constantly had to spend sleepless nights revising. In a sense, however, it feels like nothing has changed. I try, like everyone else, but often I feel like it will never be enough. My work plans are often disrupted by distractions, and the balance between school and free time has become increasingly invisible. Stress is inevitable and I constantly find myself waking up and dreading the day ahead.
So where do we draw the line?
Productivity is not inherently bad. But being constantly exposed to its promotion can lead to comparisons that, in the end, are in no way beneficial. Last year, the idea that we would be trapped in a state of quarantine due to a horrible global pandemic was laughable, an unthinkable situation. So, while our worst fears come true, being thrust into the unknown doesn’t mean you have to function well alongside it. Whatever your situation, being quarantined is not a choice. It’s a moral obligation, and it must be done to protect our safety – but again, it’s not a choice. Among many others, I underestimated the magnitude of the situation and now we are at a point where our reality is terrifying. And so, being productive isn’t as important as it used to be.
It is important to recognize that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to use this situation to their advantage. Amid rapid unemployment, separation from friends and family, and increasing loneliness, poor mental health is inevitable — and it’s normal. It’s okay not to be okay, it’s okay to need Take vacations. 2020 has been a year that we will inevitably need a long time to heal; don’t get mad at yourself for not being able to handle it as effectively as someone else. Ultimately, “success” itself is also an extremely subjective concept. Top grades and an effective day don’t always equal success. Success for me recently has been getting out of bed at a reasonable time and not putting off taking care of myself until a later date. Success is following my friends, spending time with my family. Success is no longer the perfectly productive day I imagined – and for a while it won’t be. I was supposed to visit universities and be excited about future opportunities. And so, when it’s all gone in the opposite direction, success is about putting yourself first, and making sure you’re making an active change to fuel your happiness above all else.
How can we change this damaging mindset? If you’re like me, school means I can’t completely ignore all responsibility in favor of a self-care day.
Prioritizing what you have to do is a great way to make sure you can get what needs to be done, out of the way. Practice different methods around your work, whatever it is. Personally, sitting at a desk for two hours is overwhelming and not satisfying at all. Taking regular breaks ensures that I feel balanced.
It is also important to take care of yourself; for me, journaling has been a huge source of comfort for me. As someone who used to be bored, it now serves as an extreme source of catharsis for me. I often feel guilty projecting my worries onto my friends because they face similar struggles; by writing it down (which can also be done on your phone if you have trouble concentrating with a real notebook), I can relieve some of that stress.
Finally, remember that this journey is a process. It’s tough and it won’t be easy, but we can and we will get through this. Thinking about what’s happened so far, it’s pretty surreal to acknowledge how much we’ve already dealt with. So forgive yourself for making mistakes.
We’re all in the same boat, and don’t lose hope when things don’t always go “perfectly”.