The 21st century desire to constantly do better and be better has somehow intensified over the past few months - this shouldn’t be surprising and yet it is.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic. A totally ‘unprecedented time’ (everyone’s favourite phrase at the moment) and a frankly devastating moment in modern history. And yet, chasing success and maintaining a level of productivity is presented in the media as a priority equal to PPE and social distancing.
We are so used to filling every second of every day with a plan, a chore, a purpose, that when this is no longer possible because of lockdown restrictions, we all fall into what many are labelling a ‘productivity panic’. Most notably, I have found myself feeling guilty for doing nothing, even though there is very little I can actually do. My university term is over, there are barely any jobs available that I would be appropriate for and yet the possibility of simply resting is unthinkable. It feels synonymous with failure.
I’m sure I speak for many people when I say that a huge source of motivation in life is feeling like you have a purpose. This could be as simple as a checklist of what you want to achieve in a day or an extensive bucket list for the next 10 years. Both are about looking ahead and being driven by the possibilities of the future but, most importantly, both are attached to a desire for order and stability. So, to have this ability to plan and control our everyday lives thrown headfirst into the socio-political hurricane that is COVID-19 has been unsettling to say the least.
Upon reflecting as to why this crisis has led to so much anxiety, I decided it is first and foremost because there is no real end in sight. As a student with exams or deadlines, I can pinpoint the exact day when the worry will stop. Yet this current situation is totally unique in that, I, like the rest of the world, have no clue what will happen in the next week let alone the next year. That thought in itself is overwhelming and I have found myself wallowing in self-pity and secretly wishing I could sleep until this is over. But, without some serious safety concerns, that option isn’t possible, so instead we must adapt and be kind to ourselves.
The media is overflowing with articles on ‘making the most of lockdown,’ encouraging super-human workout routines, massive projects like writing novels and flaunting rose-tinted highlight reels of the ‘new normal’ metropolitan life. It is concerningly easy to take such content at face value and immediately feel bad about your comparative ‘inadequacy.’ It is true that some people will be thriving in this time, but others will just be working on surviving. And that is okay. However you cope, know we will get through this and that just existing right now is enough.