How I lost my sh*t (then got it together, sort of) in the middle of a pandemic
Everyone has been trying to keep their shit together in the middle of this global pandemic. Some are doing better than others, some have gone completely off the rails, while some look like they’re doing great, when in fact, they’re worse off than most. (Don’t trust everything you see on social media, kids) Long story short, everyone is doing their own thing to survive – myself included.
Like some of you, I started off this whole lockdown period absolutely driven to be as productive as possible. I read, worked out, learned to cook some new meals (sushi bake, anyone?), signed up for some webinars and online courses, started a bullet journal.. the list goes on and on. But lately, I’ve been finding myself at a point (I like to call them ‘down cycles’), where I just want to do absolutely nothing. Nada. Zilch.
If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, welcome to the club. And if you had a breakdown, became anxious, stressed out or cried over it, then I’d like to grant you VIP membership to the club. I have been there and to be frank, sometimes still find myself there. While it might not be the best place to be, I honestly believe it’s normal (and inevitable) during these challenging times.
These last few weeks have been tough to say the least. No one knew it was coming and even when it was here, no one really had any idea on how it was going to unfold in the next few months. While Sydney and most of Australia is generally faring better than most places around the world, it’s still a complete 180 to what it was at the end of March. I guess what I’m trying to say is, the world is not what it used to be and if your behaviour has changed because of it, that’s completely acceptable.
I have not worked out (like a full-blown sweaty work-out) in weeks. Am I frustrated that I stopped? Yes. Should I start exercising again? Yes, definitely. Am I going to get mad at myself for not working out? No.
While there is no one right way to live through a pandemic, I thought I’d still share some of the things I’ve adapted to get through this *new normal* (Can we please let this term die already?! I apologise for using it).
Start a new hobby, but don’t force yourself to continue if you’re not enjoying it
Let’s face it. No one wants to be considered a quitter. I’ve seen some people push themselves to finish 2 week workout challenges (even if they were dying and didn’t see any results), to learn a new language (even if they quickly lost interest and weren’t really understanding much), or to follow DIY tutorials online (even if they weren’t crafty or creative to begin with). And to be honest, I was the same with reading.
Pre-covid, I would power through any book for the sake of finishing it. But today, I no longer spend time on any book I don’t enjoy reading. I have started 12 books since lockdown began, but I have only finished 9. Yes, I have started and abandoned *gasp* some books. Old Trish would’ve died at the thought of it, but new Trish gives zero f*cks. (Ok, I still want to finish them eventually, but I’m just not as stressed out over it.)
It’s not the end of the world if you decide to stop doing something in favour of something else that will enrich your life.
Practice self-care – whatever that means for you
Self-care is about looking after yourself and taking an active role in protecting your own well-being and happiness. The operative word here is YOU, which means, your methods and ways could be different from someone else’s. There are a lot of things online about what self-care is and isn’t, but these articles should only serve as a guide, not an instruction manual.
In the process of finding my self-care plan, I tried numerous things. From meditation (not my thing) to bubble baths (hell yes), taking short walks (also yes) to sleeping early (meh), as well as disturbing my only co-worker (Andrew) for some mid-day water cooler chats (my favourite time of the day). Remember, you can do anything, but not everything.
Nurture your relationships with your family and friends
As someone who lives more than 6,000 kilometres away from family and friends, the one good thing I can say about lockdown is that it evened out the playing field. I couldn’t physically see my friends or family, but neither could they. Everyone resorted to FaceTimes and video calls and it was nice to be able to see everyone on the same channel for once. I don’t know about you, but I actually feel much closer (literally and figuratively) to my family and friends at this time.
I’ve been sharing my down cycles with my family and close friends and they’ve been extremely supportive and empathetic. In fact, one of the reasons I started writing again was because of such discussions. Whether you’re isolating separately or with your family, now is the perfect time to set aside quality time for your support systems.
Embrace lazy days and forgive yourself
Starting a new job is hard, but starting a new job in a pandemic is even harder. My first day at my new job was just days after Australia went into lockdown. Being new to the company and the industry, I felt that I had to prove myself (and also, I didn’t want to be unemployed). I tried to move fast and learn as much as I could, but the lack of an office environment and face-to-face interactions often led me to doubt my capabilities and constantly worry that I wasn’t meeting my team’s expectations. This led to a lot of frustration, sleepless nights and stress.
While most of this was just in my head, it still affected my productivity and mental state. On days that I felt extremely overwhelmed, I was busy, but not productive. At the end of the day, I’d be frustrated for not finishing what I set out to do for that day. But you know what? My company carried on. Everyone kept moving forward. Missed deadlines or not, life will go on. Your manager might disagree with me, but work can wait. Your mental health cannot.
[Disclaimer: I’d like to point out that you should still take accountability for your work and your deadlines. Just because you took a mental health day doesn’t mean you’re excused from your responsibilities.]
What I’ve come to realise is that it’s not about filling your time with activities that you should be doing, but rather going at your own pace. If you want to bake, then bake. If you want to want to watch Netflix, then watch Netflix. Or if you want to start a new business, then by all means, go for it! But you don’t have to do everything at this exact moment. Rest, breathe, have lazy days. No one will take it against you.
Repeat after me: you don’t have to be productive during a global pandemic. Feel free to lower your expectations for yourself and just take it one day at a time. Your future self will thank you for it.