Covid-19 and Learning to Be Patient with Ourselves

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you don’t need me to give you the rundown on the Covid-19 situation. The entire world feels like it’s been turned upside down and about 40% of the population is currently either social distancing or on lockdown. This means a lot more time inside and a lot more time with the people we live with. It’s no surprise to me that in China where they’ve recently been lifting restrictions, that divorces spiked. Still, there are some wonderful things coming out of this lockdown.

My favourite things? The Quarantine Projects.

It feels like there’s a surplus of time and for the first week or so of social distancing, I spent far too much time on Twitter scrolling through my timeline. It wasn’t a healthy thing to do and while I could recognize that, I also felt helpless to stop it. It was a similar feeling to when I quit smoking. All of a sudden without the commutes, without being stuck late at the office or carrying that fatigue home, there were hours that I could claim back for myself.

I wanted to figure out a project, something to keep my mind off of the chaotic nature of the world right now. It was something that I was seeing more and more on twitter. People were taking this time and using it to create a positive experience for themselves.

All throughout my timeline there were pictures of people baking, of penguins going on aquarium walks, tweets about people finally learning languages or reading books that they’d wanted to for years. So when I decided to take on a project, I narrowed it down to simple things that I could do even when the anxiety of living during a pandemic was too much.

In order to do that though? There were rules. Some of these I was reminded of while scrolling through Twitter and others came from family members and friends I’ve talked to. People who are suffering from depression and severe anxiety for the first time in their lives and are unsure of how to handle it. The main thing to keep in mind is that these are things that work for me. Whether there’s a pandemic or not, you need to find what works for you.

Rule 1: Choose something you want to do rather than have to do.

This is the time to follow your passion and find things that will (in theory at least) stress you out less than the pandemic is. If work is your passion and you’re using this time to take professional development courses then all the power to you, but if your quarantine project feels like a chore? Choose a different one.

This is the perfect time to learn a new skill or hobby which you’ll hopefully carry on after the pandemic is over. Take up something crafty or creative, something that you feel you can express yourself with. It can help take away from the drudgery of being cooped up indoors for an entire spring.

Rule 2: Keep your expectations reasonable.

It feels like the sky should be the limit during these times. The logic seems to be that since we have more time, we should have more energy to devote to projects. This isn’t the case, however. Anxiety takes its toll and there are plenty of little things to keep us busy during the day (especially if you’re social distancing with your children). Choosing one or two things as your quarantine project will be more helpful than choosing five.

For those one or two things, it’s better if you make them things that are easily accessible to you. Challenge yourself to read more books or to learn how to knit a scarf or bake loaves of bread. The fewer things that you need to procure to start your project, the sooner you can build some momentum. For example, knitting is great because you only need knitting needles and yarn, but if you decided that your project was going to be carpentry, you might find yourself needing expensive tools to get started.

Rule 3: Be gentle with yourself.

A few of the people I talked to who were really struggling with depression were having trouble particularly because it felt like they were doing so little with their time. All of this extra time thanks to a pandemic and they weren’t doing as much with it as they felt like other people were doing. Aside from the obvious ‘comparisons aren’t healthy for you’, you can’t compare your progress with a project to someone else’s. We’re all in the same overall situation, but the details of our situations are different.

If you find that you’re not where you want to be, that’s fine. Take the time you need to process that and then, when you do feel ready to start your project take baby steps. Maybe knitting an entire scarf in a week isn’t reasonable, but tell yourself you’re going to do two rows a day. Or you’re going to read one chapter of your quarantine read per day. Whatever makes your project seem like it has bite size options will pay off in the long run.

Even still, there might be days where you don’t get anything done and that’s okay you. Being gentle with yourself is crucial right now. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling or get down on yourself. You’re doing great and I can’t wait to see what you come up with for your project.