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 months, 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.  

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