“Grind and shine.”
“I’ve got a dream worth more than my sleep.”
And more recently, variations of the following:
“If you don’t come out of this quarantine with 1) a new skill, 2) your side hustle started, or 3) more knowledge – you never lacked time. You lacked discipline.”
Whether it is sessions I have had with clients or conversations with friends and family in my life, the last thing anyone has needed during COVID-19 was to be told that what they are doing is not enough. Internalizing this belief during the shelter-at-home orders (for which many individuals means still putting their lives at risk to do their jobs, or having to work or figure out a ‘new normal’ at home) can undermine the efforts of those who are doing their best to get through and figure out the day in a time that is unprecedented and potentially overwhelming.
Juxtaposed with all of these very real concerns is the insidiousness of #hustleculture, where one should be working, chasing dreams, pushing, and producing ALL THE TIME. Toxic productivity was an issue before COVID-19, but layered on top of people’s purpose, livelihoods, and ‘daily normal’ being turned upside down, it can be even more damaging. Assigning worth to productivity may also be a strategy wherein people try to regain control in a time where we do NOT necessarily have control of what is happening, but to the point that the only way people can feel good is if they accomplish everything on a never-ending to-do list; make and create all the things; as well as expect similar or greater levels of functioning when stress, uncertainty, fear, and worry are adding extra burdens to the load we are carrying.
It is important to remember that everyone has the potential to be affected in some way, and that this is not something that many of us have experienced in our lives before. Per trauma psychologist, Alaa Hijazi (as cited in Reneau, 2020):
“We are going through a collective trauma that is bringing up profound grief, loss, panic over livelihoods, panic over loss of lives of loved ones. People’s nervous systems are barely coping with the sense of threat and vigilance for safety or alternating with feeling numb and frozen and shutting down in response to it all. People are trying to survive poverty, fear, retriggering of trauma, retriggering of other mental health difficulties.” 1
Below are some ideas for challenging expectations during this time that one has to ‘have it all together,’ as well as finding things to focus on to help YOU move forward with a little bit more grace, love, and/or compassion for yourself and others.
Reminding yourself that you may not have as much energy. This is okay and normal!
Living in uncertainty and feeling all of the feelings accompanied with it can take a lot out of us, especially when we consider the weight of hypergivigilance, worry, and other additional demands. Your previous 100% may look a lot different from what it looks like now (or can even change on a day-to-day basis). It is important to challenge or adjust expectations of what you can do. Giving yourself credit for some of the small things (making or eating a meal, pausing to take a few deep breaths, splashing water on your face, etc.) is a better mindset than coming down harshly on yourself for what you have not done. Not doing things as efficiently or as well as we did before is not a sign that something is wrong with us; it is an aspect that may come with living in the midst of a pandemic.
While all of us may be impacted in some way, some folks will be hit harder than others.
In addition to elderly and immunocompromised populations being more vulnerable, low-income communities and folks of marginalized backgrounds (race, immigration status, sexual orientation, etc.) may be at greater risk due to systemic inequality and economic vulnerability. 2 The disparities that existed before have been brought to light even more as people are affected disproportionately, and as a result, people may have different experiences and struggles. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Even with social distancing, we need each other more than ever.
It’s okay to take a social media break.
While news updates can be helpful, most human beings are not designed to listen to a barrage of news 24/7. Scrolling on Facebook or Instagram can take time away from us, without necessarily making us feel better. Some folks benefit from taking a break completely; others do better with setting limits or specifically curating inspirational and positive pages to follow. Choose whatever is best for you.
Talk back to any internalized #hustleculture
You have value even if you are not productive or working at this time. You are worthy even if you are not doing things perfectly, make mistakes, or in general, are trying to just figure things out at this time. When a voice (inside you or from someone else) attempts to define your worth based off of a number or a comparison, pause and ask yourself, “Who is this really benefitting?” or “Does believing this feel helpful for me?” Capitalistic thinking has the potential to put emphasis on things that have monetary gain, or putting emphasis on value tied to doing, results, accomplishments, etc. Remember, we are human beings, NOT human ‘doings.’
We all have cycles, and these will be impacted by what is going on in our lives.
Human beings naturally have cycles of ebb and flow, with there being times where we are busier and more active, as well as times where we may have more rest and reflection. Some people may live skewed more to one side vs. the other, as well as our society as a whole overall favoring busyness, action, and outcomes. In her book Warrior Goddess Training, Heatherash Amara discusses cyclical thinking vs. linear thinking. 3 While both can have a place in our lives, linear thinking tends to be more goal-oriented and filled with expectations, such as A + B = C. Cyclical thinking tends to focus on the natural cycle of things changing within our daily lives, with this being anticipated, adapted to, and embraced where possible.
Cyclical thinking can be found in nature with the changing of seasons, ebb and flow of the tide, or even cycles in human life as we transition from babies and little ones all the way to getting older as we age. It is also present in metaphors of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, or a seed obtaining nourishment in order to become a plant. Cyclical thinking as it applies to living in the pandemic may mean knowing and anticipating that things will be different at this time, and taking care of our needs and those of the people we love however we best can.
For some folks, it may feel right to pour their energy into creating, with all kinds of amazing things arising through photos of meals that folks have not otherwise had time to make; writings and art being made that move and touch people, and unite us through a shared experience; as well as resources and materials from individuals across all different sectors being created and shared to help each other.
And, despite this all — if you are in a cycle of rest, contemplation, or taking a break from it all – this is just as important and of value, and may even be crucial for you. It is not as glamorous or even sometimes as fun as the other side, but serves a purpose, and may be needed when we least expect it.
Amara recommends when we are entering into something that feels new or different, that we:
- put our attention on what we want to take away from the experience,
- notice and try to meet whatever needs come up and present themselves to us
Focusing on our takeaways and lessons, as well as being kind and gentle to ourselves and others as we meet these needs has the potential to help us move more gracefully through whatever cycle or experience we are having, vs. feeling stuck or in denial of our current reality.
Lastly: It’s okay to get support when you need it, and you don’t have to do it all alone.
We are here to support anyone who is feeling overwhelmed or in need of support right now, and have therapists trained in and able to provide telehealth services to you in the comfort of your own home or place of choosing. We are sending love to and rooting for all of the individuals and families trying to figure this out! Please reach out to us for any needed support here: http://northstarcounselingcenter.com/contact
1. Reneau, Annie. (April 2020). A trauma psychologist weighs in on the risks of ‘motivational’ pressure during quarantine. Upworthy. Retrieved from: https://www.upworthy.com/coronavirus-productivity-motivation-myths-dangers
2. Human Rights Watch. (March 2020). US: Address impact of Covid-19 on poor. Retrieved from: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/19/us-address-impact-covid-19-poor
3. Amara, H. A. (2014). Warrior goddess training.. Hierophant Publishing, 18-21.