Well-meaning people have been enthusiastically encouraging us to spend our newfound downtime in productive ways.
“We have more time at home than ever before. Use this time to organize your cabinets and clean out your closet. You should build that business you’ve always wanted to. Just create something new!”
I subscribe to the mindset of productivity. When people talk about their current Netflix obsessions, I rarely have anything to contribute because I don’t watch much TV. I’m annoying, I know. But I’m usually reading a self-help book or writing for my blog.
So, when people were talking about maximizing their coronavirus downtime, I jumped right on board. In my head, I was like, ”You won’t catch me watching hours of Netflix! I’m going to retake that online course, write five blog posts a week, and excel in my full-time job.”
I began making a list of all the things I was going to do with my free time. Quickly, my list filled the entire page of a notebook. I mean, I knew we had an undetermined amount of time at home, but this list was a lot. I felt panic rise into my chest.
I kept pushing myself to be productive.
During my first week of self-quarantine, I pushed myself to work through that list. I was determined to be as productive as I promised myself I would be. I spent almost every spare moment writing, creating, and cleaning. Any time I felt the urge to sit on the couch to relax, I’d remind myself, ”This is your moment to maximize this time. Don’t let this go to waste!”
Except the truth is, I was struggling. Sure, I had more downtime, but I was also carrying more weight on my shoulders than I ever had before. It wasn’t an equal exchange.
In the back of my head, I was always worrying about the health of my family. As an empathetic person, I couldn’t help but carry the pain my fellow humans were experiencing. It was a heavy load to carry, and instead of honoring that, I was just loading myself up with more responsibility.
And then I had a panic attack.
I went to bed Sunday night feeling pretty good. I’d had a productive day, which in my book equaled a successful day. I fell asleep without issue that night. But at 2 a.m., I woke up with a body that felt like it was on fire. I took a deep breath and winced in pain; my chest was tight and it was hard to breathe.
For an hour, I tossed and turned, struggling to find a spot that felt comfortable. Finally, after I meditated and read some poetry, I drifted off to sleep. I woke up the next morning with clarity.
A middle-of-the-night panic attack was new for me. I’d never experienced it before. Although I’d felt fine before going to bed, I knew I’d been putting a lot of undue pressure on myself. I had a feeling that my strive for productivity on top of my anxiety about the pandemic was too much for me to handle. My body gave me a wake up call and it was my duty to listen.
So, I’m changing my tune.
Instead of using all of this downtime to be productive, I’m using this time to honor myself. I’m going to read books for pleasure, get sucked into a new TV series, and stay in my sweats all day if I feel like it. I’m going to take long baths, bake cookies, and care for myself with daily walks.
As a naturally high-achieving-kind-of-gal, I’m still going to show up and give it my best shot. It’s not in my nature to do absolutely nothing, but I’m going to be kinder to myself.
With so many things changing right now, we all could use more kindness. We could use more compassion, love, and care. We should begin by giving that to ourselves.