I mean, obviously you have to survive. And watch your finances. And feed yourself. Also, depressives/chronically ill people need to monitor their symptoms and reach out to their health/mental health providers as needed. And you need to socially distance.
So okay, there are actually a few things you need to do during a pandemic. But one thing not on the list? A new hobby or skill, building anything or organizing/decluttering your house.
I think there’s an unhealthy preoccupation with keeping artificially busy during this awful time.
I don’t know if the people touting activity are just looking for a distraction or if they just genuinely never have free time normally and are delighted to be able to finally take advantage of it.
And either possibility is fine. But then they tweet things along the lines of, “If you’re not doing something you always said you’d do, it’s not that you lack time. It’s that you lack discipline.” Or they just generally scold people not making the best use of this time to start new projects/hobbies.
These people need to accept that not everyone is going to be productive right now.
Gee, I wonder why
I mean, it’s not as though some folks suddenly became their children’s teachers (while potentially trying to also work from home) or that some are spending their time fighting to keep their mental health intact. Nope, it’s definitely a lack of discipline.
When someone tweets something along these lines, a fair number of us line up to remind these people that people may have a few other things going on. In fact, the latest tweet responses I saw were from two people who had newborns. So yeah, they’re a little busy.
Lots of free time
But some of us have nothing major going on. Me, for example. You know how I spend my time? Working, blogging and lots and lots of TV. Which is to say, I spend my time desperately keeping myself from pondering all of this awfulness.
In other words, I spend my time generally trying to stay sane. (Well, reasonably sane.) And if you knew anything about my struggle to find a shrink to get my meds dealt with* — let alone actual emotional struggling — you’d know keeping up your mental health can be a full-time job.
And I’m not alone in that circumstance. A lot of folks are fighting for their lives — sometimes literally — against depression. So shaming people who aren’t taking up a hobby? Less than great.
*More on that in an upcoming post
An important lesson
I’ve been pretty clear in the past that I’m not big on silver linings, but I have found one — and only one — about my chronic fatigue: I’ve learned that you don’t have to be constantly productive to be a worthwhile person.
That’s important to keep in mind (even outside of a pandemic) because this society is obsessed with productivity. You’re always supposed to have a bunch of things on your plate: work, kids, chores, errands, at least one hobby and maybe a side hustle.
It sounds exhausting frankly.
Chronic fatigue taught me that it’s okay — and sometimes even best — to do the bare minimum. And that even that may not always be feasible.
Guys, sometimes it’s all we can do to stay alive, work (or cope with the painful amount of free time unemployment provides) and keep bills paid. So it’s okay to stick to the bare minimum for a while when things get tough.
But now? With all this going on? Even people who normally don’t have depression or anxiety are experiencing symptoms. And it’s leaving a lot of people in uncharted territory.
That takes a toll, people. One that certain smug Twitter users don’t seem to understand.
Because I’ve seen other (non-smug) people tweeting bewilderedly, wondering why they’re tired (or just otherwise want to sleep) all of the time. The answer is easy: stress hormones and depression.
Anxiety is exhausting
Constant worry isn’t just mentally exhausting — though that would be enough. No, it takes a lot out of you physically too.
Anxiety basically puts you in fight or flight mode, and most of us are currently experiencing at least intermittent anxiety. This means that our bodies are randomly flooding with adrenaline, and we have no outlet for that energy.
After all, it’s not like you can flee the pandemic (it’s everywhere — or at least could be anywhere), and you certainly can’t literally pummel the coronavirus or its apparently accompanying financial worry.
So you’re randomly or maybe even nearly constantly keyed up, and you have pretty much no recourse. Even exercise is only going to sap so much of that energy.
Okay, so lots of energy means you might be wondering where the exhaustion comes in.
Well, while you do have a lot of nervous energy, your body is also exhausted from being on high alert so often. It gets worn out. Hence the need (or at least desire) for extra sleep.
Depression is, well, depressing
Meanwhile, depression is mentally and emotionally draining. That’s bad enough, but it can also result in physical fatigue — or at least lethargy. So you may not have the mental or physical bandwidth to try new things or even pick up old hobbies.
And that exhaustion/lethargy will also lead to the desire to nap.
In other words, it may be all you can do to just keep on keepin’ on. There’s no shame in that.
If you’re peppy, great! (Probably.)
To be clear, I’m not dismissing people who are genuinely enjoying keeping busy and getting around to things they’ve always meant to do. If that’s how you want to get through the apocalypse, go for it. At least you’ve found a good outlet for your energies.
Though I do remain a tad concerned about people who are thriving during this time. I worry that they’re in denial/compartmentalizing, which would make them due for a breakdown any day.
But admittedly, some of you really are just that equanimous and are coping just fine — beyond worry for friends and loved ones, obviously.
And you folks, hey I’m genuine happy for you. Good for them. Go and get ’em, tiger! But you need to remember that the rest of us don’t have to do as much as (or pretty much any of) what you are doing.
So, everyone, if you’re staying home during this pandemic, you can:
- Take up a new hobby
- Learn a language
- Start a new business
- Spend all of your energy desperately trying to balance working and homeschooling your kids
- Work from home without kids, killing free time with some combination of books, TV, gaming or some other hobbies you already had
- Spend your time and effort monitoring your health/mental health symptoms and FaceTiming friends so you don’t lose your mind from boredom/loneliness/ennui
- Just sit and read or watch TV
- Generally try not to have a nervous breakdown while also trying to figure out how much alcohol and/or chocolate is an okay amount. (This option pairs well with the homeschool/work from home one.)
Or you can do any combination of the above. (and probably plenty more I haven’t thought of). You can do any of that or none and it’s okay.
It’s all perfectly acceptable. Well, depending on how much alcohol you deem acceptable. That could prove worrisome.
The bar is low
The point is that you don’t have to do anything other than the bare minimum when everything’s this awful. The bare minimum is:
- Keep everyone in your household fed
- Complete any work tasks
- Keep up (as best you can) with finances
- Keep up with any medications you take
- If you have kids, help them keep up with their schooling
And let’s take a moment to acknowledge that even just those things are a lot for many of us. A whole, whole lot.
So that’s enough to ask of yourself. Anyone who says otherwise needs to mind their own damn business.
How are you coping during the pandemic? Are you using your time to be productive, or are you, like me, just concentrating on staying sane(ish)?