If there is anything I'm sick of hearing during quarantine, it would be things like "It's such a stressful time!" followed by "...so try these anti-stress exercises at home, and don't forget to meditate!"
News outlets, bloggers, and celebrities are regurgitating the word "stress" so many times it's become an online trend.
These so-called "fun" listicles on how to productively cope with stress during quarantine have become so redundant it's almost as though we are collectively de-sensitized from the idea of stress. And even though I appreciate these blogs, their target audience is actually much smaller than it seems.
For many of us who are experiencing low moods, including myself, being productive in the sense of working, exercising, or reading a book is an unimaginably challenging task. And to cope with stress in productive ways, I think, is beyond challenging.
So, I would like to propose a new outlook on "productivity". One that gives weight to the small things; like getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, showering, or even looking out the window.
The other day, I fed two stray puppies in front of my house and I couldn't feel more accomplished. If I resorted to these "productivity listicles", it would have felt quite pathetic to consider that an accomplishment.
In fact, reading about those popular ways to counter stress makes me more stressed. If I feel down because I haven't had the energy to do anything (course work, or let alone getting out of bed) reading about solutions that require energy just makes me feel inadequate. More importantly, it makes me feel alone. Which is what inspired me to write this article.
To many of us, it makes sense for these BuzzFeed-like lists to feel foreign. Or worse, for us to feel foreign to everyone who relates to them. But that's not the case.
To make you feel less alone, and possibly more accomplished, here is a realistic anti-stress productivity list (which should in no way interfere with you seeking professional help if you need it):
- You got out of bed.
Great job! I know how hard that was. It's often an underrated task.
- You said "Hi" to a partner, family member, or a pet.
Talking to people other than yourself can help you press pause on negative thoughts.
- You put on different clothes.
Because we're staying at home, it's natural to feel like every other day is the same. Changing into different clothes can help you mark some change in your day.
- You found one thing and made a routine out of it.
Having a daily routine, no matter how short-lived, grounds you. Grounding can be very relieving especially if isolation is making you feel anxious. For me, that daily routine is making coffee as soon as I wake up.
- You showered.
It's truly an accomplishment, don't undermine it.
Bonus tip: play music while you do so.
- You watched something you love.
Yes, I consider watching Netflix productive. Distractions are necessary sometimes, especially enjoyable distractions.
- You looked out the window.
Isolation can make us forget that there is a world outside our four walls. Take a look out your window and breathe in the air, if you can. This will also help ground you.
- You resisted constantly checking for news updates.
Obsessively refreshing your timeline every 5 minutes in search of updated news on COVID-19 will only make you more anxious. Resist the urge and put your phone down, it'll go a long way for your mental health.
- Finally, you read this article and finished it.
Even if that was the only "productive thing" you did today, you still went through with it.
Obviously, this list is not based on any professional expertise whatsoever; just my own reflections and what has been helpful for me.
I think it's worthy to say that I don't mean to belittle any forms of coping and productivity. I only hope to provide an alternative narrative to what popular media defines as healthy and productive during this time.
Not to mention, it helps knowing you're not alone when you find yourself waking up at 5 PM and staying in bed until 7 PM because you couldn't find the energy to get up. If there's a window next to your bed, you might even get one item checked off of the list, and I think that's quite impressive.
How do you feel?
If you feel like you are in need of professional help, find below a map of mental health resources in Cairo, Egypt. Courtesy of Lilac. Please don't hesitate to reach out: