Why It’s Okay Not To Be Productive Right Now

Why It’s Okay Not To Be Productive Right Now

The world as we know it has changed rapidly since early March. Within a matter of days, our lives and our daily routines changed drastically. Adults are no longer going into a workplace and children are no longer attending school. Life milestones like graduations and weddings are being put on hold or cancelled and as a result, many people are experiencing increased feelings of frustration, sadness, and disappointment.

As each day unfolds, we are facing new and different challenges from financial uncertainty and unemployment to managing your child’s schoolwork and worrying what the physical effects of contracting COVID-19 might look like for you or your family. No one has been shielded from the far-reaching effects of this pandemic.

Meanwhile we are being bombarded with messages from social media about how to be your most productive self while in quarantine. For many, messages on how to organize your apartment or become that master chef are frustrating and insensitive.

If you are wondering why you can’t motivate yourself to accomplish these tasks, first know you are not alone and it’s ok to be feeling negative emotions during this unprecedented time.

Recently, many people have written and discussed the idea that we are experiencing grief as a result of a collective trauma that we as a society are living through.

When we typically think of grief, it is often associated with the sadness and sorrow that comes from losing a loved one or another immeasurable loss. However, loss can be large or small; it can be caused by the feeling of having to postpone a wedding or a child’s inability to play in the park each day.

Regardless of the magnitude and cause, one thing is certain, we are all feeling a sense of grief at this time.

Kessler, the world’s foremost expert on grief states, “Grief is far reaching… The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.” 1

That is to say, you may be experiencing grief, we all are, don’t feel guilty or silly and don’t feel like you need to be a superhero. Here are some ways to deal with your emotions….

1. Notice and name what you are feeling

Pay attention and notice how you are feeling whether it be frustrated, disappointed, sad, or angry. Naming our feelings helps our brains to process what’s going on and allows the emotion to move through our bodies. It’s also instrumental in helping manage the emotion and figuring out a way to move forward.

2. Allow yourself the space to feel your emotions and to grieve any loss

Most importantly, allow yourself to feel those feelings. It’s easy to get caught up in the “but it could be so much worse” train of thought. Invalidating ourselves by comparing to others and saying we “shouldn’t” be feeling a certain way only makes us feel worse. Invalidation only intensifies the emotion. Ignoring or fighting an emotion doesn’t help because our bodies and brains are feeling it. If you notice you are feeling sad, first name the emotion and then give yourself permission to cry if that is what your body and brain is wanting to do. Acknowledge what you are going through, reach out to whomever you feel comfortable with and share how you are feeling.

3. Keep in mind it’s all relative

Remember your feelings are relative to your experience. Your sense of loss is your own. For a young child, his or her biggest sense of loss may be not attending their weekly soccer game. For them, this is huge! It could be the change in a comforting routine, lack of physical activity or time outdoors, and loss of connecting with friends that they’re struggling with. Allow them to express how they are feeling without reminding them that things could be worse. Avoid starting any sentences with “at least.” Allow yourselves to feel any and all emotions without judgement. This is not the time to compare to your friend whose loss may seem worse or more significant than yours.

It’s important to keep in mind that your feelings are valid at this time. Emotions can also manifest in other ways like difficulty focusing, trouble sleeping or an increased or decreased appetite. Notice these signals coming from your body. Keep in mind that it’s ok to not be our most productive selves at this time. Despite what social media is portraying, it’s ok to not feel like organizing your entire home or starting a strict workout regimen.

Above all else, you have good reason to be feeling however you are feeling. Everyone is struggling in some way or another at this time, so now is not the time for comparisons or being hard on yourself. Now is the time to focus on your own healing and supporting your friends and family, not on proving how productive you can be in quarantine.


Authored by:  Jennifer Jamgochian, LMSW

Resource: 1 https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief