OPINION: Self care more important than productivity during pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has paused life for an unprecedented time. People are working remotely, whether that be for school or for work, and some people aren’t working at all. 

People are learning to cope with this stressful time by incorporating more hobbies into their lives. That may be trying out a new recipe, or trying a whole new cook book, or even pushing their creative minds and physical bodies by painting, drawing, writing and exercising – people all over the world are finding new ways to pass time. But why?

“We like to distract ourselves,” said professor of psychology, Joseph Ferrari. “We try to keep busy and it distracts us psychologically. It enables us to feel like we have accomplished something. It distracts us from a common problem. It allows us to gain some kind of control.”  It’s normal to feel eager and want to stay busy during this time– we went from a juggling act of balancing school, a job, a home, and a social life and it’s completely valid to not want to stray from that routine and to find new ways to stay busy.  

I can’t speak for everyone, but baking bread is not something that I thought I would enjoy doing or even be good at. But while we are all living through the middle of a pandemic, there’s more time to pick up hobbies and skills than anyone knows what to do with. 

“People are seeing these new hobbies and activities on social media and in the news and that is one of the places from which they get the idea to do these things,” said Roberta Garner, a sociology professor at DePaul. “But I think it is inherent in being human, that we want to do things.” 

It’s in our human nature to make sure every day is a productive day that feels worth living. At DePaul, “Here we do” is ingrained in our minds. 

But life is paused for so many – we’re living in a time that is not only strenuous on our physical bodies, but is much more strenuous on our mental health. While it is in our human nature to “do things” and to be busy people, it’s important sometimes to stop for the sake of our mental health. 

Given that we’re experiencing a global pandemic, this free time wasn’t thrown to many of us to continue to push our bodies to the brink, but to make sure to protect and care for it so we can also be able to protect and care for others. 

It is so important and entirely healthy to engage in new productive activities that are physical, creative, and intellectual, but in a time where your mental health is pushed to the test, you also must be making sure to do things that enact self-care. 

“I think the real question is not so much ‘should you be busy?’ But ‘how are you doing self-care?’ ‘How are you taking care of yourself?’” Ferrari said.  

Some people find self-care in forms of productivity – this means doing things that require various measures of efficiency whether it be physical, intellectual, or creative – in order to take care of their mental, emotional, and physical health. Although some people practice self-care through productive tasks, it’s extremely important to realize that everyone operates differently and that productivity doesn’t always lead to self-care for many, but in fact it’s the other way around. 

In some cases, productivity can’t prevail without self-care. 

“In order to truly be productive, you have to take care of yourself,” said DePaul freshman Sean Weiser.  “Without self-care, productivity doesn’t exist in my eyes.”

If you find that spending this immeasurable amount of free time to bake, learn yoga, or paint a self-portrait does not sit well with your mental health and is only adding stress to your body – that is entirely ok. 

Good for you if you’re already on season three of that show you just started.  And if it took three bubble baths today to finally relieve the tension in your shoulders and make your skin begin to glow again, then that’s perfectly fine and there isn’t any shame for it. 

If these things aren’t entirely defined as being productive but they bring ease and improvement to your mental, emotional, and physical health, it’s important to keep doing them. In fact, continuing to do them can allow one to feel more motivated to do slightly more conventionally productive activities. If Netflix or playing video games is the way you de-stress, you shouldn’t feel any guilt for that. 

Everybody has different styles of self-care and it’s important for each individual to recognize what works for them whether it means staying busy or not. But if you force yourself to do productive tasks only because you feel pressured to, it can only cause more strain and discomfort towards your mental health and heighten stress and anxieties during a time of already heightened stress. 

 “I think that pushing yourself to be over-productive can be detrimental,” said DePaul junior Clare Gordon. “We all deserve to relax and de-stress in our own ways.” 

It’s so easy to feel like things in the world are falling out of our control, and we depend on forced productivity and accomplishing something in order to sense that control again. 

 But if productivity is just not working out for you during a global pandemic, one thing you can control is caring for your body, mind, and spirit. We don’t always have to be kept busy and hopefully, the good that comes out of this is that we learn to be more gentle and kind to our bodies. 

When we eventually go back to our regular busy routines of school and work, we might lose grip in the small little hobbies we use to fill our current void of staying productive and distracted. But when the dust settles, the need for self-care will still be there.