Self-care is Productivity: Learning to be gentle with yourself during unprecedented times

Photo bTim Goedhart on Unsplash.

Within the course of the past few month, the future I had already envisioned for myself changed dramatically. I went from planning graduation and party arrangements to packing up my entire dorm room into boxes and plastic bags. Within two days, I had packed up all of my belongings in my dorm and squeezed them into my white Subaru Outback, and drove directly home with fear that if I even stopped somewhere to go to the bathroom, I would pick up COVID-19 and bring harm to my loved ones.

With all that had happening within a short time span, I did not get the time to process what was happening. Rather, I am just beginning to process it all now. My senior year of college was completely altered and I just now realized all the typical experiences I will miss: receiving my diploma, saying goodbye to my friends and professors, publications of my on campus projects, and so much more. I am disheartened at these, but also because I knew of so many students not just from my university, but others, who were going back to unpredictable situations and homes. I was going through a lot, but I at least had the privilege of going to a place where I knew I would be safe and taken care of. Many other students cannot say the same and that has impacted me deeply.

I continued to see the impact of displacement as I tried to continue my classes online and manage myself at home. Even after I finished my last semester, I found myself unable to sleep or staying up late. I consistently have little to no motivation and having find myself having more bad days than good ones. I am worrying about my vulnerable friends and family. I am seeing people on social media struggling to get by and people who have already lost loved ones. I am seeing individuals who are claiming that “the virus is over” out of ignorance. All of this takes a toll and I am feeling it now more than ever. In the midst of all this suffering, the last thing I want to do is try to find more work in an unsteady economy.

I know for some, the prospect of having something to do while at home is a wanted distraction and for others it is not. For me, it has personally been hard to keep up with my responsibilities. Although in the last week or so I have finally found something that works for me, which is making a manageable to-do list for each day of the week in a notebook and crossing each item off as I complete them. Despite this, though, I still feel like my responsibilities and commitments are crushing me mentally. Whenever I take time for myself, I find myself feeling guilty.

As I try to allow myself time to mourn my missed experiences, I also personally struggle with feeling guilt for taking time to do something that elevates my mood like reading graphic novels or watching my favorite shows. I feel if I am not checking a task off on a list, I’m not being productive, but that is not true at all. I have realized recently that my new normal is constantly reminding myself that self-care during this time is productivity. It is taking the time to gently remind myself that, yes, you are still allowed to do the things you love, sit outside, and feel the sun on your skin. 

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