If lockdown has shown us anything, it’s that people love to bake…I mean, our Instagram feeds have been jam-packed with pictures of people’s banana bread. It seems like lots of people are using their time at home to do new things like improve their cooking skills, exercise three times a day or start a brand-new business venture. Which is great! But what if you’re not doing those things? You begin to question yourself and think: Is this the kind of thing I should be doing?
Social media is a platform we continue to battle with daily. Whether it’s struggling with the pressures of comparison, feeling the need to exert confidence or simply showing off a life everyone would love to see. It’s these kinds of things that are inadvertently making some of us feel guilty, and even lazy.
I have been in COVID lockdown for 70 days. Of that 70 I have been legitimately productive approximately 3 days. I hope this helps others who are feeling overwhelmed and unproductive. We are all working in fits and starts.— Dr. Amanda L. Glaze-Crampes (@EvoPhD) May 27, 2020
When perusing through social channels like Instagram, many of us are forced into feeling a strange mix of jealousy, self-doubt and quite possibly disappointment. And recently, the majority of these feelings are brought on by the need to be ‘productive.’ When faced with various posts of people’s successful attempts at baking cakes, managing to read three books a week or committing to an in-depth at-home exercise plan, you feel as though you’re “less than” everybody else and are met with an overwhelming sense of guilt for not doing those things.
Anyone else overwhelmed with all the emotions associated with feeling like you can’t do anything ?— Ariii baby🖤 (@ariellaj_) May 29, 2020
There’s been days where I’ve blankly stared at my work laptop, knowing full well I have lots to get on with, but for some reason feel stuck. I’ll often turn to Instagram in an attempt to distract myself only to find more and more people posting inspiring quotes, pictures of their work-from-home set ups and yes, a plentiful array of freshly baked banana bread. Which in turn, makes me feel even worse. How is everyone else managing to pull through? What are they doing that I’m not?
And it’s not just me feeling this way. After submitting a poll to Facebook, I received nearly 200 responses with 80% saying they’re feeling incredibly pressured to seem ‘productive’ during lockdown.
Jane Muston, Mental Health Clinician & Clinical Director at Vita Health Group, assures us that most of the time on social media, we’re only getting half of the story. And this is mainly down to people only wanting to show their best bits.
“What about the failed bread rising attempts, the sourdough starters that never got started in the first place and the trainers sitting in the corner picking up cobwebs?” she told us.
One thing I’ve found important to remember is that people cope with situations in different ways. Whilst some might choose to spend their time baking cupcakes or running 5k a day, others might find comfort in a long bath, another Netflix episode, or you know... just trying to get through the day!
One person attempting to go against these 'picture perfect' productive days in lockdown is influencer Rozanna Purcell. During lockdown, she has posted about feeling stressed for not being as productive as everyone else online, captioning her posts with things like: “I do feel unmotivated, lonely and then guilty about feeling that way at least 2-3 days a week and I’m still trying to adjust.”
A lot of the pressure felt to be productive, seems to coincide with a feeling of losing routine. In a recent blog post for Mind, a Respiratory Physiotherapist known as Andrea, admits one of the hardest things right now is the loss of routine and structure, admitting that the pressure of work right now, coinciding with this need to feel like she's not wasting precious time off is making her burn out.
"Having work be so dominant in my life right now is helpful, but I am worried I will burn out," she wrote. "
"When you are exhausted it's the easiest thing in the world to sit and scroll mindlessly through social media, looking at a million photos of cats and people getting into making bread, and then feel bad for wasting your precious time off. Higher quality entertainment takes so much more concentration and energy. The stack of books I hoarded remains largely untouched. I can't sit through a whole film, even breaking up the classics on Disney+. Some of the things I normally enjoy feel like too much effort."
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a healthy diet and a regular exercising pattern in order to maintain good mental health, but I also believe in giving yourself a break. And whether that might look like spending these suddenly long days in bed watching hours of Netflix, or whether it really is deciding to become the next Bake Off star, than that's OK.
Gemma Perlin, Behavioural Change Coach, also tells us to express self-compassion. More often than not, we can’t help but feel triggered by what’s going on around us, but it’s important to be patient and kind to ourselves. In circumstances like this, it’ll take time to adapt to a different way of working through things.
The reality is that we’re all just muddling through lockdown in whatever way works for us. And however you might be spending your time, whether that’s binge watching your favourite TV show, eating a tub of ice cream or simply working on yourself, just make sure you’re cutting yourself some slack, ok? Because you’re doing great.
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