Advise Me

Is a Pandemic the Right Time to be Overproductive?

Great! Another friend on social media is posting about her new-found passion for baking homemade bread while another is building a table from reclaimed wood – a table, people!

With COVID-19 keeping us indoors these days, many are feeling the pressure to Marie Kondo their homes, become an expert in [insert whatever] or write the next great American novel. And it’s not just being seen on social media, it’s on the news and in our inboxes too. It seems everywhere you turn there is this incessant pressure to be productive and achieve while we are stuck at home.

While this might be all and well for some, for others it can make them feel overwhelmed, upset and more isolated, even with social distancing.

“For many who have otherwise retained income, job activities have restricted you to the home,” said Scott Bartlett, LCSW, case management director at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital. “During this time, our usual use of various social media and social networking platforms has increased and with it has come some strong emotional responses, such as anger, grief and loss.”

Before you beat yourself up too much for not wanting to join in on the productivity, Bartlett explains the reasoning behind this overproductive phase and how you can personally navigate this time without spiraling out of control.

Some People Thrive During Stress … Others Don’t

Let’s face it, when the going gets tough, some of us get going and some don’t. And both are OK. While we are all experiencing uncertain times, each one of us is responding or reacting to it through our own lenses (vision, if you will), tinted by our own thoughts and experiences.

Some people, we’ll call achievers, thrive in these types of situations. In fact, this probably isn’t the first time they have responded to other sudden changes.  They have a strong, innate urge to take action whenever adversity comes their way.

“For achievers, they feel better knowing they have identified something within their control in the midst of an overwhelming outside circumstance,” Bartlett said. “They may, even in less stressful times, enjoy staying busy and active. This is their way of coping.”

On the other side, you have those in stressful situations like the pandemic who can’t imagine adding another to-do to their current situation. Some may be consumed with worry about their next meal or future ahead. While others are just trying to keep their heads above water as they try to balance working from home, teaching their kids from home and keeping the house running.

“Others are just doing what needs to be done to get through the day, and that’s OK too,” Bartlett said. “Putting added stress and pressure can make things worse. It’s better for them to focus on self-care and their own simple pleasures, whatever those might be, and tune out all the noise on social media and TV.”

But, if you aren’t an achiever, it can be really hard to watch other people kick it into high gear during the pandemic. While you may be overwhelmed and thinking “slow down,” they may think they are just engaging in healthy coping.

“Remember to take everything you see on social media with a grain of salt,” Bartlett said. “They may think they are inspiring others, and they might be. Everyone has their own perspective, their own way of looking at these achievers. If these posts are affecting you, it might be worth asking yourself why you are having these strong reactions. The answers could lead you to some realities about yourself.”

How to Encourage and Not Discourage Yourself During the Pandemic

If the pandemic and achievers have you down, Bartlett shares things you can do to encourage and not discourage yourself:

  • Unplug from social media if it is upsetting you.
  • Disconnect from electronic communications after connecting with people you want to talk with.
  • Make time for self-care and exercise.
  • Choose your own wins or accomplishments, big or small, worth celebrating.
  • Hold space for your emotions and feelings. It’s natural to feel a rollercoaster of emotions when you are experiencing a sense of loss and monumental change.
  • Engage in any form of meditation or deep breathing that allows you to slow down and clear your mind.
  • If you are a part of a faith community, stay connected in whatever way you can or explore the practices your faith community teaches.
  • Read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” a book notable for its perspective on dealing with devastating life circumstances.
  • If you have reached a dead-end with self-contemplation, shift your focus outward:
    • Write and send a note to a friend or loved one who may be isolated or alone.
    • Pick up the phone and check in on someone
  • Understand your usual response to adversity and ask yourself if you are satisfied with how you respond.

If you feel completely overwhelmed, immobilized and can’t determine next steps, consider speaking with a licensed behavioral health specialist. Or if you or someone you know is engaging in negative coping skills – such as substance abuse – take one assertive step to find help. Many therapists and specialists are providing online therapy.

“Always keep in mind that we are all working to cope during this time – some are adaptive and others maladaptive,” Bartlett said. “They may not be yours, but you don’t have to do as others do. Find your best pathway and let others follow theirs.”

For more tips, check out these helpful COVID-19 articles on the Banner Health blog.

COVID-19 Behavioral Health

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