Yesterday was the first real moment where the reality of being on house arrest caught up with me. It was going to be another boring day.
My eyes misted over as I saw a shape approach me. We must be in sync because my partner Lindsey had come out to join me on the back deck. I had escaped the four walls of our apartment to soak in a sliver of sun before it disappeared behind the house. She leaned over and said, “I’ve been doing alright with things lately, but this is the first time I’ve felt like this will never end.”
I nodded as we looked over at our plump little pug, Chugs, doing what he does best—legs in the air like a chair flipped upside down, growling for a belly rub and taking full advantage of the change of scenery.
I never thought I’d be a plant guy, yet here I am with multiple reminders in my phone to water the plants each week. I’ve watched dumbfounded as ferns wither and the leaves crumble like they’ve been baked in the sun. How is this possible if I’m watering it on a regular schedule? A call to my Mom was a reminder that caring for a plant involves more than a drink of water.
When a plant doesn’t bloom properly, you make changes to the environment in which it’s growing, not the plant itself.
It’s so easy to forget how much our environment shapes and affects our work. We continue to plan and push forward with expectations that simply aren’t possible in our current environment.
It’s in these moments when you’re overcommitted, stressed out, and feeling trapped that the voice of productivity-shame creeps in. “Why aren’t you working harder?”
There’s a damn good reason why you’re running yourself ragged. You have fears, doubts, and emotions that are currently battling something challenging. Your presence has never been more scattered. And you’re not alone in these feelings.
You can’t escape these feelings, but you can do your best to tend to them. As author Carlos Castaneda pointed out, “We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”
Are you providing your mind and body with an environment to grow and recover?
My fern was doing the best it could to grow in the environment I provided. I treated it the same as all my other plants. I’d put my finger in the soil and if it was dry to touch; I’d give it a drink of water. It turns out that allowing the soil to dry out between waterings stresses ferns because they love moisture.
Yes, changing your physical environment feels more like a luxury in these times. Most of us don’t have a second house or cottage to escape to. Hell, we don’t even have offices or coffee shops to work from. My “office” serves as a living room, dining room, workout studio, and Netflix binging station.
What we do have control over is how we plan our day and the expectations we have of ourselves.
I’m in the habit of leaving lots of room in my schedule each day. I start my day by writing for a couple of hours. It gives me a chance to make sense of what I’m feeling and to put my thoughts into focus.
Your health and wellness come before productivity. I’m not putting meetings back-to-back and letting others control my environment (and sanity). I’ve discovered the importance of leaving room for fresh air, reading, and meditation—things often passed off as something I’ll do “if I have time.” That’s like saying you don’t have time to stop for gas when you’re driving your car on empty.
The further you go without filling up, the more likely you’ll feel stressed, burned out, and unable to cope with the many roles you’re juggling right now.
When this is all over (and it will come), this new approach to life will help you create an environment where you thrive under stress. As author James Clear said, “Your productivity is a balance of opposing forces. If you want to be more productive, you can either power through the barriers or remove the opposing forces. The second option seems to be less stressful.”
Without these moments of recovery, you can’t expect to perform at your best. These activities fill you up and put you in a state to make the most of your time. Rather than scattered thinking and feeling stressed out, you prune these opposing forces so you can remain present and enjoy life.