As the world around us changed dramatically with the coronavirus outbreak recently, all of the fairly standard things I’d previously taken for granted, such as driving to the office, leisurely mooching around the supermarket, meeting the family for Sunday lunch or going to get my hair done were no longer an option.
Most of us have much more ‘free’ time on our hands in some form or another. Adam and I are still pretty much working as we did prior to lockdown, but now that we’re home-based, it’s saved at least an hour a day just from the lack of commuting. With the extra time came a subtle expectation to ‘make it count’ and be super productive, especially after seeing all of the amazing achievements that others are frequently sharing on their social media channels.
I made myself a list of things I’d like to do in the evenings and weekends whilst in lockdown; daily yoga and running, cooking, baking, sewing, start an Open University diploma, populate my Tik Tok account with hilarious cat videos, finish poems that will never see the light of day, finally sort out my messy blog and finish the posts sat in my draft folder, sort out the wardrobes, pick up my Pinterest game, practice my Illustrator skills and hang on just a second – that massive list actually doesn’t look like fun at all.
I’d been feeling under a lot of pressure pre-COVID19 anyway so really, the last thing I wanted was to spend my downtime ticking off self-imposed tasks that I’d created because I’d feel guilty if I wasn’t cooking from scratch every day or keeping up with the news 24/7 or being an ultra-fun, attentive parent and generally being hyper-productive at any given moment.
I hit a wall and spent most of last Monday bursting into tears with every new notification that pinged up on my laptop. I used my lunch break to go for a walk and clear my thoughts. It dawned on me that I hadn’t slowed down or stopped long enough since the outbreak began to let my mind actually try and process the
huge level of fuckery going on strange situation we’re now temporarily living in.
This weekend, I decided to act on how I was feeling, rather than what I thought I ‘should’ be doing. I spent Easter Sunday in bed with my cat, eating Creme Eggs until I felt sick and watching movies that had been on my list for ages. I finally went downstairs in the afternoon, grabbed a cup of tea and started an embroidery project I’d barely touched since Christmas. We ordered takeout and had the nicest evening catching up with friends over a virtual quiz night.
I woke up feeling more content than I have in a month or so and realised that maybe slowing things down is exactly what I needed. By taking away the expectation that I’d set for myself to stay busy, it’s ironically left me feeling more motivated and grateful for the things I can do again when we eventually come out of this pandemic.
And that’s the thing to remember. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic; an unexpected, life-altering event that’s left a lot of us feeling completely unsettled and out of control. It is not business as usual – it simply can’t be and it’s unfair to demand anything more than each of us simply getting through each day in one piece, however we can.
We are collectively trying to process varying levels of trauma and facing different challenges, with none of us really knowing what’s around the corner or how long this is going to last for. Personally, I’m living in a state of perpetual fear that we’re going to have to say goodbye to one of our relatives before this thing is done and can’t shake the crushing anxiety that wakes me up at 3am every morning, no matter how much fucking meditation or yoga or gratitude journaling I do.
If having goals keeps you motivated and gives you a much-needed sense of achievement amidst this chaos then I applaud you, sincerely; just be mindful that others might be mustering up huge levels of energy just to be able to peel themselves out of bed in the morning. Let’s allow each other – and ourselves – to slow down and catch a break, if only for a little while.