Why You Shouldn’t Feel Bad About Not Being Productive During Quarantine

Productivity? Productivity? There's no productivity in quarantine!

We’ve been in quarantine for almost two months, and experts agree; we’re going to be here—in some way, shape, or form, for a while. Even as some states begin lifting restrictions, it’s clear that we’re a long way from being back to “normal” and will be spending more time at home than previously for months to come.

That said, productivity isn’t the thing to shoot for now. The pressure to produce will burn you out early, and this is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re safe, at home, fed, and showered (bonus points for exercise), you’re doing enough. Need more convincing? Read on.

Emotional health is our priority now

That need to busy yourself and be “productive” can be an avoidance technique. If you’re taking on more than you can realistically do with the time you have, beware. “Burying yourself in work is a coping mechanism,” says Ashley Ertel, LCSW and Talkspace therapist. “It’s straight-up avoidance.” It’s safe to say many of us would rather do anything than think about the pandemic and what it means, process it, and grieve it. To stay emotionally healthy, Ertel recommends relying on the social support of friends and family. If you’re looking for additional support, try one of Talkspace’s free moderated Facebook groups or another COVID-19 resource.

We need to grieve

While we might not have all lost loved ones, we have lost our livelihoods, our systems, our normalcy, and our structure. This loss takes a toll and it requires that we grieve. Grieving takes time; it’s a process. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified six phases of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. If you allow yourself the space to feel these things, they’ll take your energy. You may feel exhausted, sleep more, cry, emote, and feel pain. That has an impact, it takes a lot out of you.

Yet, you can’t outrun grief. You may hide from it, but it will find you. It doesn’t feel productive (you can’t point to it like you can a bundt cake), but it’s non-negotiable. If you feel those tears coming, let them. Find out how a therapist is staying sane during coronavirus.

Are you a caregiver? You’re already doing double duty

family quarantine productivityCourtesy Allison TaskI have three children, two first-graders and a kindergartener. My husband and I both work full time. Until March, we had a screen-free home. Ha! Now, while we work, we’re also teaching, feeding, cleaning, and cruise-directing all day long and those devices are required for distance learning.

Are you cooking for your elderly parents or in-laws? Trying to keep spirits up for people around you? Keeping in touch with your aunt in a nursing home? If you are caring for others, that in and of itself is a full-time job. Did you just get a puppy? ‘Nuff said.

Please, no additional productivity projects for human caregivers during the quarantine. If you can take care of those around you, and yourself, that’s enough. That’s actually more than enough. No harmonica lessons, no taking up a new language. Not you, not now, you’re already deep into overtime.

We’re spending more time cooking and cleaning

Cooking and cleaning are new projects that we’ve added to the pile. So you might think you’ve saved yourself a commute and have more hours in your day, but you’ve also added a lot more work. Procuring our food is more stressful than before; going to the grocery store is scary and even ordering in means wiping down all the containers. Plus, there’s cleaning! We are cleaning more than ever, wiping down surfaces constantly, washing our hands over and over again. Not to mention the extra vacuuming, laundry, cleaning your phone, and doing all the dishes that come from never leaving your house. Is your sink empty? Laundry pile done? That’s enough productivity for you. Make sure you know the 12 things you need to clean after returning from the outside world.

Relax and sleep to strengthen your immunity

We don’t want to get sick now. Not with coronavirus or anything else, quite frankly. Wellness is the goal—not productivity. And wellness comes simply, with physical and mental health. That means time for gratitude, time in nature, time with loved ones, some exercise, and healthy eating. It means connecting with your spirit, the world around you, and the beings around you.

Is relaxing productive? Yes and no. You’re not doing anything per se, and yet, you’re repairing your body. Similarly, sleep is one of the most productive non-productive things you can do. When you sleep your body and brain can reset and rebalance, repairing for the next day. It’s a daily tune-up for your body.

We are at the beginning of a marathon. And as every marathoner knows, it is tempting to start off hot. You’re feeling good, excited, ready for the challenge. I salute those of you who put a smile on your face, ready to do some projects, thinking that we’d only be quarantining a month or two.

Now is the time to pace ourselves, slow it down, and be sure we have enough energy for the long haul. We’re in this together, so remember to avoid the temptation to engage in productivity and bury yourself in projects right now. We’ve got to feel the feelings, as uncomfortable as they are, process, heal, replenish, and strengthen. And counter-intuitively, much of that is done through rest.

Take a look at our Coronavirus Guide to discover more ways to stay sane and keep your family safe.

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Allison Task
Allison Task is a certified Career & Life Coach in Montclair, NJ. She helps people thrive. When not at work she's keeping her head above water with her 4 year old twin boys, 3 year old daughter, 15 year old stepdaughter and too many goldfish. She also hosts the Find My Thrive radio show and podcast that can be found on iTunes or www.findmythrive.com. For more, please visit www.allisontask.com.