By Ann Villegas
I don’t know about you but this pandemic is terrifying and I’ve been affected in the utmost negative ways. Even before the city of Toronto shut down for non-essential businesses, the first confirmed reports of COVID-19 in the province already made me uneasy. I felt paranoid that I would catch it. I was worried that my family members would too. Now that we’re all officially in quarantine, I will admit that it wasn’t a smooth transition for me. I did not handle it well. I couldn’t get into the groove of things. I mean, I’ve accepted the situation, I knew how serious this was but I was overwhelmed, all I wanted to do was lie down, sleep and forget I even existed in the world. I vividly remember the first weekend in quarantine where I forced my boyfriend to binge watch Itaewon Class with me (by the way, the greatest K-drama right now) and do nothing. My anxiety was through the roof! This line from Sunny Fitzgerald’s article couldn’t have validated me any better:
Because individual circumstances differ and people process difficult experiences in a variety of ways, psychotherapist Dana Dorfman says, “there’s no ‘right way’ [to get through this], other than allowing yourself to be your own way.”
This was my own way of coping. I feel the need to remind people that it’s okay to do just that — to be. Around this time of already heightened anxiety, I was also noticing all these people on social media documenting their productivity. At 10 in the morning, two people I followed were already in their second workout of the day. It got to the point where I wondered to myself, “Why am I not like these people?! Why aren’t I taking this precious time to work out or do all the things I’ve been meaning to do, too?! Am I not normal?” This is obviously the capitalist part of my brain talking. Spoiler: I’m more than fine. Hustle culture never stops whether we’re in quarantine or not. That’s the problem, not us.
When my anxiety was at its peak a few weeks ago, I knew I needed to focus on myself. I stopped reading the news because it would only upset me. I took a much-needed break from my phone and social media right after working remotely. And I took care of myself. I would take a long shower, do some foundational self-care: skin care routine (masks!), yoga, breathing exercises and read (a lot). It felt so good to unwind and relax. Five weeks into quarantine, it’s safe to say that I have set a routine just right for me.
To clarify, I’m not shaming anyone for taking this time to be productive. Those leveling up with their fitness, pursuing creative projects and spending more time into their hobbies — I literally aspire to be you. I truly stand by it. All I’m saying is, mental health matters too. This doesn’t need to be the most productive time in our lives. There is no “business as usual” so take your time. Feel your feelings and take care of yourself. Especially for those who have underlying mental health conditions, I am with you. For me, my anxiety just doesn’t respond well with this situation. Seeing all this hustle content doesn’t help either. I felt this productivity guilt and it only pressured me to hustle beyond my limits. But we have to understand that we’re in a global pandemic! You have permission to shut this inner drive switch off.
Thousands of people dying from this virus, people’s livelihood are at stake and I feel the most for our essential workers risking their lives at the frontlines. In this dark time we’re facing right now, it’s ok to feel your anxieties and worries of the world rather than what your next big thing should be. It’s a frightening time we’re living in, an uncertain one that looks to be on-going. Take it easy. Your mental health comes first. Do what feels right for you. Wallow up if you need to, but please don’t ever, ever bury your emotions. Process your feelings and work through it.
Fitzgerald, Sunny. “Don't Feel like 'Getting Things Done'? It's Okay Not to Be Productive during a Pandemic.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 6 Apr. 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/productivity-coronavirus-pandemic-projects/2020/04/06/742edf54-76e4-11ea-85cb-8670579b863d_story.html.