midlife, personal growth

Anxiety About Being Unproductive In Quarantine – There Is No Need to Stress

Image of woman face down on couch for Cheers to Chapter Two Anxiety About Being Unproductive in Quarantine? There Is No Need to Stress page

Anxiety About Being Unproductive in Quarantine – There Is No Need to Stress!

If you’re not one of the primary heroes of this pandemic – the healthcare workers, essential staff and public servants – it can feel like you’re not doing enough and not being acceptably productive right now.

If someone told you six months ago you’d be quarantined to your home for two months, you’d have clapped your hands in anticipatory glee! Your mind would be racing over all the projects, hobbies, books, closets, epic changes to your health, or cluttered basements and dusty garages.

You’d be thinking about how you are going to repaint bedrooms, plant a garden, learn to knit, paint a mural, write that book, and finally get control of your diet and of getting in shape.

And it may be true that William Shakespeare wrote King Lear and Sir Isaac Newton discovered calculus while in a plague quarantine, but I’m going to reassure you that you being you right now is fundamentally enough.

To heck with the new “productivity shaming” that’s going around!

You showing up to the day for yourself, for your kids, your parents, your community, showing up in whatever way you find yourself able to, is valuable itself.

I know I’ve felt disappointed with myself for how far less productive I’ve been with all this extra home time than I would have hoped to be. Like you, I have big dreams and lists of projects waiting for me to have the available time to pursue.

And here it is. The extra time thrown unexpectedly on our laps.

Are we making productive progress on those extra projects? Maybe on a few of them, but not enough to feel like we’re making an impact.

Don’t Let Angst Take Hold Simply Because You Haven’t Crossed Things Off Your Quarantine To-Do List

I think we all need to know that whatever we do or don’t do has to be ok right now.

It’s ok to feel less energized, motivated and productive than we’d imagine ourselves being with our pandemic “free” time.

“We need our heroes, that’s for sure. But sometimes we must simply allow ourselves to be humbled by a situation. To grieve what’s happening, to not know what to do next. To be messy. To handle things imperfectly. To not have anything “Instagrammable” to share with the world right now.” – Dr. Susan Biali Haas, psychologytoday.com

Here we are in the fourth week of sheltering in place, and how many of those dreamy goals have you accomplished? Maybe not even a third.

And with that lack of accomplishment comes the anxiety of how you’re not using time wisely.

Not to mention the guilt of overindulging in a few new nasty new habits like pounding down Bugles, gummy worms and White Claws.

Some days we make positive productive progress and sometimes we just don’t.

“There’s a growing backlash against the need to be super productive with all our newfound “free” time. In fact that pressure to be productive is causing anxiety for many.” – Taylor Locke, cnbc.com

Either way, this is not the time to feel badly about yourself. If you haven’t been using your time wisely to perhaps build, sand and stain yourself a new kitchen table… or to learn the lost language of Latin in the past four weeks, it’s ok to excuse yourself.

“The world needs us present; the world does not need us busy.” – Kate Northrup, Do Less

On top of the pandemic stresses of illness, fear for our loved ones’ health, anxiety over income and paying our bills, missing our extended family members and shoot, missing our normal lives in general… it’s not useful nor helpful for us to add the pressure of productivity.

Give yourself a break.

There are going to be homebound heroes who are extraordinary during this crisis. They will be the ones in your neighborhood who sew hundreds of face masks to share with others, or who organize dinners for the healthcare workers at their local hospital, or who create fundraisers for local families in need.

I’m sure we’re all grateful for the energetic kindness and altruism of our fellow humans. But if you’re not leading one of these charges, and you’re following safety orders and staying home, and you’re not as productive as your neighbor is, that’s no reason to feel anxious or guilty that you are not doing enough.

You’re finding your way through each day of an unusual, prolonged and stressful event.

The world will not stop turning because you haven’t yet solved that 1200-piece puzzle on your dining room table, or because you can’t yet run a 5k, or because you spent nine days bingeing on Netflix.

You’re enough, just as you are.

What you get done, or don’t get done, in a quarantined pandemic day, needs to be enough for you to maintain your mental health and feel ok.

You are essentially a valuable human being regardless of the number of tasks you completed today.

There will be days ahead to get your motivation and energy flowing again.

For now, push yourself on days when you can. Let yourself slide on days when you just can’t.

Allow yourself the space and grace to do what you can on any given day.

Your kids will live whether you’re serving a frozen pizza (again) or you’re serving a homemade organic veggie casserole from scratch. You are doing your best to remain sane and keep things going.

Tomorrow is another day, another chance to make choices about what you will or will not accomplish. Be gentle with yourself right now. Getting up and breathing is the baseline. If you’re doing that, you’re amazing.

Reaching out will help you feel better.

If you can squeak out a text to check on a friend or someone you know is working on the frontline, that is valuable. Making a call to your mom, taking out the garbage, feeding the cat… that might be all you can muster today. And that’s ok.

Everyday doesn’t have to be uberly-productive for you to feel of value in this difficult time we’re in.

Let’s not let ourselves add productivity shaming, guilt and anxiety to our shoulders because we don’t feel like we’re “making the most out of” a global pandemic.

May you keep your physical and your mental health intact as we find ways to feel gratitude, to move forward and out of this crisis. – Marlene


If you’re struggling with anxiety right now, you might find these related posts helpful:

Tips on How to Handle Anxiety During the Pandemic

Learn to Be Happy Right Now Amidst the Pandemic – Here’s How

When Life Isn’t What You Had Planned


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2 thoughts on “Anxiety About Being Unproductive In Quarantine – There Is No Need to Stress

  1. Spot on Marlene! Today I woke up at woke up at 6:15 – making plans to get SOMETHING accomplished today- maybe even something substantial – not just preparing meals from our odd cupboard/freezer – for 4 people in captivity . But then, I got the first of what will be dozens of (justifiable) frantic calls from my 84 year old mom – from her Covid19 ward (no visitors) at an out-patient rehab facility – 80 miles away from me. 30 minutes later – my plans are crushed. I am constantly feeling this = every single day and this is just the begining – before the actual guilt and disappointment about not accomplishing SOMETHING above and beyond — AND then add that to not being able to properly help my mother from afar – well – yes. It is enough in one day. But you add to the rest of the- what would normally be individual catastrophies – like, your husband’s business is shuttered right now, your children – while physically “safe” are each suffering terribly with their own personal situations – and realize…you just need to shower… have a coffee, and start over, AND…it’s only 7:15 AM!!!

    1. First things first, my friend. BREATHE. You may have forgotten to do that! The idea that we need to be MORE productive right now just isn’t based in reality for many of us. You do what you can to hold things together, and that’s enough. Coffee and a shower may just be all you can check off your list today! (Although I’m sure you’ll feed your captive gang, soothe some individual catastrophes, take care of the dog, feed the chickens, do laundry, clean dishes, and have a few conversations with your mom beofre the day is done!!) Hang in there sister! YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

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