Pandemics: Productivity or Self-Care?

The rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world has suddenly put us in a position of “working from home”. I don’t know about you, but I felt almost immense pressure to pick up my entire work life and squish it into my tiny one bedroom apartment.

During the first few days of working from home I assumed that could keep up the same level of productivity and output, albeit a different location. I mean, I spent most my time just working on my laptop anyway so why should the location matter? 

But then the virus continued. I was becoming addicted to my news sites and Twitter. I was constantly checking the numbers the locations and worrying what was going to happen next. And I was still at home.

Suddenly things became harder. Replying to emails was something I found hard to face. Even the thought of opening my laptop made me feel overwhelmed. I felt like a failure. A failure who was addicted to Twitter. A zombie who couldn’t stop scrolling and despairing.

Apart from all the scary things on Twitter, I was seeing people posting fantastic pictures of working from home. I saw wonderful set ups of laptops balanced on textbooks and beloved pets edging their way into zoom meetings. Everyone else seemed to be adjusting really well. They were still working. But I came to realise I wasn’t coping.

It was about a week after the restrictions in Australia put us in our homes. It was then I could see that other people also weren’t coping well working from home. Yesterday I saw this on Twitter that really put things in perspective.

“You are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.“

Just really stuck with me. All my worries, some of which I outlined in my previous post (which have exponentially increased since then), are still valid. However, we are all going through this together. We are all trying to retain a sense of normalcy in abnormal times.

Some people find comfort diving into their work pretending nothing else is happening. I’ve seen people finishing their PhDs via zoom. I’ve seen people celebrating publications of papers or gaining a job/grant. I’ve seen people getting married or having babies. Life still goes on. But it’s okay to not feel okay during this time. It’s important that we acknowledge this and talk about it. Yes, we are all alone in our houses, but we’re in this together.

If productivity is what’s getting you through this, then keep going. Keep making that sourdough bread or banana bread or whatever. Keep writing those papers writing that dissertation.

However it’s okay to just write a sentence or reply to a single email and then check out for a bit. Watch the Simpsons again. Start a puzzle or a crossword. Try and play a game (hopefully online with some friends) or have virtual wine nights. Connect to the people around you (virtually) and don’t berate yourself too much if you’re not being productive.

Well, this is what I keep telling myself. Hopefully this resonates with you too. Stay safe, stay home, and wash your hands.

What’s keeping you sane during this crazy crazy times?

— Alessa Teunisse

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