Remember to Give Yourself Grace During the Pandemic

In real life, I’m what Gretchen Rubin would term an “upholder.” I make a schedule and I stick to it, my to-do lists are itemized, my workouts are planned the night before, and my television time is limited to one show a night (ish).

But coronavirus Kristen is a different person altogether. The smallest items on my to-do list feel like mountains. My workouts haven’t been a source of joy, and I beat myself up after for not feeling like I worked as hard as I would in a group fitness class. My screen time jumped 66 percent last week, according to my iPhone, and yet returning a friend’s text message takes me hours. Old seasons of Survivor are constantly playing on my television. All those people on the Internet with the detailed quarantine schedules making time for daily meditations and doing ten burpees every hour? Yeah, I could not be MORE opposite of that.

It’s a weird departure from my normal self, and on top of all of that, I’m feeling guilt and anxiety around *not* living up to my pandemic potential. Why can’t I muster up the strength to clean out that one junk drawer? Am I letting my team down when I can’t find the space to brainstorm new creative projects? If Shakespeare was able to write King Lear during a quarantine, what on earth is wrong with me that I can barely manage a simple email?

[Read more: How to avoid feeling guilty for doing less]

Feeling similarly? You’re not alone.

According to a source in a recent HuffPost article, it’s normal to not be normal during a decidedly abnormal time. After all, the career coach says, you’re responding constantly to what’s happening around you—and to carry on business as usual implies that you’re not affected by the circumstances.

pandemic productivity guilt

Our society glamorizes productivity (we love a good productivity hacks article as much as the next website, TBH). And according to this Psych Central article, we tend to connect productivity with our self-worth. That means that on the flip side, when we spend time doing less, or relaxing, we might chide ourselves for being lazy.

As the HuffPost article goes on to explain, doing “your best” looks different right now. During times of heightened anxiety and stress, a small percentage of the world might thrive; the rest of us normies, however, are probably only able to do the minimum necessary to keep the lights on. In fact, stress and anxiety are so prevalent right now that the CDC has a page called “Manage Anxiety and Stress” with mental health tips specific to COVID-19.

If this sounds like you, aim to sustain rather than innovate

Repeat after me: you don’t have to “take advantage” of a pandemic to be more productive. If that’s true to how you’re feeling right now, you go reader, but everyone’s dealing with this in their own way. Putting on pants may be right for Jeana, but it’s a hard pass for me right now—and that’s fine.

Plus, this CNBC article points out, your pre-COVID routine took weeks—months? years?—to perfect and adjust to. Your new social distancing routine is going to take time, too. Don’t force yourself to stick to a schedule or an output that feels unmanageable. Embrace being bored when it feels right.

And then, slowly add in activities that make you feel good without overwhelming you. I’m talking hilariously small tasks; for me, it’s five minutes of training my dog and putting on a face mask for 15 minutes (you know the coronavirus anxiety is bad when a face mask seems like too much effort).

This morning I remembered something my senior year English teacher told our class as we headed into the last month of school: “An object in motion stays in motion,” he encouraged us as he assigned us a (totally pointless) paper or research project during peak senioritis. You might be doing less motion that you’re used to, but you’re still moving—and that’s what counts right now.


About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.

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