This week I’ve been experiencing what my boyfriend has termed the Coronavirus Blues.
In my very unscientific self-diagnosis of this disorder, I have found that people (aka me) with the Coronavirus Blues exhibit the following symptoms:
Here’s how those symptoms have played out in my life.
I’ve been on the verge of tears for several days for reasons unknown to me. I was legitimately angry at a shower rod for a few hours because I couldn’t get it to stay in place. I’m eating nacho chips like there is a national shortage on corn, and many of the things I planned to get done this week just aren’t going to happen.
I know my emotional changes are due to the uncertainty I feel about the Coronavirus. I want Dr. Fauci or some other smart medical official to give me a date when the pandemic will be over so that I can start planning for my normal life. When really, I need to spend more of my efforts accepting that quarantine life is normal life now.
Despite my symptoms, there still are things in my life and business that I want to accomplish this year. So I’ve been grappling with how I can get things done without beating myself up for having rough days (or weeks) or giving in to our culture of relentless productivity. I’m not interested in either end of that spectrum. So here are my thoughts so far:
Did you know that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during quarantine? Or that you can create a home gym in your living room using soup cans? That’s just a couple of the gems I read about in those pandemic productivity articles that came out at the beginning of quarantine.
You can sum up all those articles and social media posts like this – You’re home. You have time. You should get a lot more done.
We live in a culture where even a global health crisis becomes an opportunity to be more productive. Our culture tells us that we must use every waking moment of our lives to improve ourselves and get things done. If not, we can’t call ourselves successful adults.
Unfortunately, it’s the idea that we have to be perfectly productive workers that stops us from achieving goals in the first place. Goal achievement isn’t about non-stop action. It’s a series of mess-ups and restarts.
People reach goals because they commit to restarting. You don’t have to be relentlessly productive for that. You just need to commit to restarting every time you fail and being kind to yourself when things don’t work out as planned the first time or the 50th time.
When my friend got into medical school, everyone congratulated her on her achievement, but the best praise came from her grandmother. Her grandmother told her that whether she got into medical school or not, whether she finished, stopped, or didn’t go at all, she loved her and was proud just to her grandmother.
I wish we all had grandmothers like that. Because we don’t, we have to remind ourselves of our intrinsic value. Our value is not tied to what we produce. It comes from who we are and the values we cultivate. That’s what counts in the end. Everything else, including to-do lists, is secondary.
Sometimes we feel like getting things done, and sometimes we don’t. That’s just the nature of emotions and of being human. Instead of beating ourselves up for lack of motivation, the better approach is likely to accept that feelings will come and go and that a lack of motivation sometimes means it’s time to rest.
With cultural cliches like, “work hard, play hard,” we can start to believe that rest is a reward for exhaustion.
Rest is not a reward. It is a right and requirement for survival.
When things are in flux, we need more rest, not less of it. So I’m permitting myself a lot more rest as a way to get things done.
Mindfulness is just the practice of paying close attention to your inner world. When you do, you start to notice patterns.
Maybe you get headaches if you have too much of a particular food. Perhaps you’re not resting well because your back muscles ache. Or maybe you feel more energized during the day if you go for a walk early in the morning.
Paying attention to yourself and responding in a way that serves you is the essence of self-care. Self-care is tantamount if any of us plan on achieving anything anytime soon.
Besides recognizing our intrinsic value, I’m also attributing value to self-care and care of others above all else. We devalue caring for ourselves when it becomes an afterthought or something we will get around to eventually. COVID-19 has made it clear that we can’t afford to do that anymore. There is value in caring for ourselves and others. We can’t realize our dreams if we aren’t around to bring them to life. So care of self must come first.
Rather than beating myself up for not getting everything done during a pandemic, I moved some of my goals to my later list. A later list is just a list of goals that you plan to accomplish in the future.
Right now, the priority has to be health above all else. So I’m shifting the goals that can be completed later to another time and only focusing on the ones that are most important after my health.
Do you have any tips for achieving goals during the pandemic? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments below.