When we first entered quarantine, I made an endless list of things I wanted to accomplish and learn with all my newfound time. I wanted to do it all: learn new languages, make art, bake, take free Yale classes on Coursera and become the best and most productive version of myself. I think a lot of people also had a similar mindset, and while there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself, it is important to realize how productivity culture can have a toxic way of affecting our mental health and wellbeing. I believed that if I was not spending every minute of the day doing something productive, that the day had been wasted.
Having this type of mindset can be harmful, and with the stress of a pandemic as well as my entire life changing dramatically within the span of weeks, I found myself getting drained quickly.
All of a sudden we were expected to take full course loads and telework, all from home, while also experiencing the insecurities that come from a pandemic. Some days I could barely get myself out of bed, and when I did, it was hard to even motivate myself to do the bare minimum. Many people’s mental health issues have been exacerbated because of the isolation we have been forced to enter, and have also been experiencing a similar burnout, whether it comes to school, work, or life in general.
I have had to learn how to become aware of what my mind and body are trying to tell me. One of the main things my body was trying to tell me was that I simply needed to lay down and relax. Too often, we find ourselves overbooked with various commitments and we do not even allow ourselves a moment of rest. Although the “grind” is real, we must remember that we are not machines, we are humans. If you are feeling tired and overwhelmed, there is a reason. We have been conditioned to ignore the physical and mental signs of burnout, we even brag about it at times. Many of my peers, as well as myself, often boast about pulling all-nighters and getting little sleep and how we are surviving off Red Bull and iced coffee. Our bodies are not designed to be “on” 24/7 and the harm that these practices play on our physical and mental wellbeing is significant.
Isolation forced me to take a step back and evaluate how the “grind” and productivity lifestyle has taken a toll on me. As someone who has a lot of type A tendencies, it is hard to erase years of habits and practices that I have lived with for much of my life. If I do not feel like doing work, I take it as a message that I should take a nap and return when I am feeling up for it again. If I wake up tired and do not feel like doing anything, I allow myself to have a low-key day and do activities that relax me and do not require much mental or physical strain.
As we enter a new semester, I will be trying to maintain these practices and remain mindful of what my mind and body are trying to tell me. I must remind myself that I will do better academically and mentally if I am taking care of my mind and body. Not only is it okay to relax and take a break, but it is essential.