Covid-19 has overtaken every aspect of our lives - academically, physically, socially; normality has unexpectedly halted alongside us, and unfortunately, it is unclear as to when it shall return. Undoubtedly, fear currently permeates our society, and it spares no one. Unfortunately, over the past few months, it has become blatantly clear that the ‘ideal’ around how to deal with lockdown is no longer possible.
If social media has become a source of relieving some of your boredom, like me, you may have seen an increase in conversations about the notion of ‘productivity’. Whether it is friends showing off the pages and pages of work they have completed, or motivational posts about what you can do with the free time you have, the rhetoric around productivity is one that has become increasingly glamorized and glorified. However, as time has gone on, I find myself questioning whether this is truly a positive thing - can productivity be a damaging concept?
As a student who is in her penultimate year, the increase of workload during this time hasn’t gone unnoticed; being given deadline after deadline has begun to take its toll. At the start of lockdown, I was luckily in enough of a position of privilege to be able to appreciate the time off - having done exams just the prior year, I was constantly having to spend sleepless nights revising. In a sense, however, it feels like nothing has changed. I am trying, as is everyone, but oftentimes, it feels like it will never be enough. My plans for work are often disrupted by distractions, and the balance between school & free time has become more and more invisible. Stress is unavoidable, and I constantly find myself waking up and dreading the day ahead.
So where do we draw the line?
Productivity isn’t inherently bad. But being constantly exposed to the promotion of it can breed comparisons that ultimately, aren’t beneficial in any way. Last year, the idea that we would be trapped in a state of quarantine due to a horrific global pandemic was laughable, an unthinkable situation. So, as our worst fears are coming true, being plunged into the unknown doesn’t mean that you have to function well alongside it. No matter your situation, being quarantined is not a choice. It is a moral obligation, and must be done to protect our safety - but again, it is not a choice. Amongst many others, I underestimated the magnitude of the situation & now we're at a point where our reality is terrifying. And therefore, being productive is no longer as important as before.
It is important to recognize that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to use this situation to their advantage. Amidst rapid unemployment, separation from friends and family, and increasing loneliness, bad mental health is inevitable - and it is okay. It is okay not to be okay, it is okay to need to take time off. 2020 has been a year that we will inevitably need a huge amount of time to heal from; don’t feel angry at yourself for not being able to deal with it as efficiently as someone else. Ultimately, ‘success’ in itself is also an extremely subjective concept. Top grades & an efficient day isn’t always what success is. Recently for me, success has been getting out of a bed at a reasonable time and not pushing taking care of myself to a later time. Success is keeping up with 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 meant to be touring universities and getting excited about future opportunities. And so, when everything has gone in the opposite direction, success is prioritizing yourself, and ensuring that you are making an active change to fuel your happiness above all.
How can we change this damaging mindset? If you’re anything like me, school means that I cannot 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 may be. Personally, sitting at a desk for two hours is overwhelming and doesn’t leave me feeling satisfied at all. Taking regular breaks ensures that I feel a balance.
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 get bored by it, it now serves as an extreme source of catharsis for me. I often feel guilty about projecting my worries on to my friends due to them dealing with similar struggles; by writing it out (which can also be done on your phone if you struggle to concentrate using an actual notebook), I can relieve some of this 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 has happened thus far, it is pretty surreal to recognize how much we’ve already dealt with. So forgive yourself for making mistakes.
We're all in this together, and don’t lose hope when it doesn’t always go ‘perfectly’.