As many millions find themselves in self-isolation, it’s easy feel like we are squandering our time if we are not “productive” enough. Household chores and little fix-it jobs that we’ve left off for weeks or months suddenly seem imperative. But let me let you in on a little secret – since the dawn of time, since you were born, until you the day you die, there will be chores. There will always be dirty laundry and overflowing trash and drippy faucets and overstuffed closets waiting for us to organize them.
But in many ways, it’s productivity that got us into this mess in the first place. The capitalist ideal that we are only worth what we can make; that success is only measured by our output.
I’d like to challenge that. To be a successful person, you don’t have to be productive. Whether you can’t work due to crippling chronic pain or debilitating depression or prolonged illness (or a pandemic), you are worthy of care and love. If you can work, but don’t, you are worthy of care and love. If you do work, you are worthy of care and love. All people are worthy people. We are more than our work. We are more than our chores. We are enough on our own.
As many of us begin to feel overwhelmed with all the things we want to get done during this period of self-isolation, I’m giving you permission. Permission to feel joy. To do the things that spark joy in you, regardless of whether they’re useful or productive or for the greater good.
We’ve heard it all before – exercising gives you endorphins. And while not all of us are cut out to be regular gym goers, working out is a quick, easy way to elevate your mood. Whether that means low-intensity yoga-stretching to peaceful music, or a walk in the park, or a morning weeding in your garden. Get your heart moving. Take stock of your surrounding. Notice animals on your hike or crocuses pushing up through the soil. Look at the world around you. And remember, life is a journey, not a race!
Let’s face it – creation comes with its own pressures. Whether you’re working on a novel like I am or trying to replicate a photograph in watercolors, it’s hard not to be mindful of the finished project. It’s hard not to judge ourselves. To ask ourselves, but is it good? I say, don’t worry if it’s good! Make something ugly!
Splatter paint on a canvas. Write the worst, most cliched poem you can come up with, write that weird fanfiction pairing you’ve always secretly wanted to write. Deface those “pretty” notebooks you’ve been too afraid to write in. Let go of your inhibitions. Create – not towards a goal, but for the feeling of it. Get silly. Get weird. Get naked, if you need. Drink a bottle of wine, if it helps. Become like a child again – creating for the fun of it. You are not a finished product and your art doesn’t need to be either. In fact, stop calling it art altogether. Call it “the big mess”. Stop taking everything so seriously and see what comes.
Singing – even badly – makes us feel good. So sing like no one is watching. Dance, if you want. Make up a funny choreographed dance with your family. Twirl your pet around the room. Make Spotify playlists with weird titles and share them with your friends. Sing into your hairbrush in front of the mirror. Put on a collared shirt and recreate the moves from Risky Business. Make your own music video. If you can play an instrument, do that. If you can make an instrument out of a sweet potato like this guy, do that. Recreate a popular movie theme on recorder like this one.
Give yourself permission to really feel the music. Cry to the lyrics or scream them or clap your hands or stomp your feet or do whatever your primal self is urging you to do.
No, I’m not talking about tennis. Whether you’re religious, spiritual or an atheist, service is for everyone. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or how much you can give. Helping people makes us feel good. See if there are any local shelters open that you can donate food or supplies to. Take in some foster pets. If you have a particular talent – like graphic design – host a free webinar.
Shop your local businesses. Tip your baristas. Sign some online petitions for change. There are so many small ways to serve your community that you can still do while social distancing. It doesn’t have to be big or extravagant. It doesn’t have to have a far-reaching impact. Every moment of your time, patience and skill that you give to others is infinitely valuable.
Get Your Head Right.
In the event of an emergency, you put on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. That’s because – to truly help and serve those around us – we need to be all right ourselves. It’s easy to feel depressed or isolated when you’re keeping socializing to a minimum. But put your mental health first. Meditate. Talk to your therapist over the phone. Write in a journal. Facetime your family. If you’re working for home, take time for breaks. Stretch. Make yourself tea or coffee. Step away from your email. It’ll be there when you get back.
Keep in Touch.
“Call Me, Maybe” isn’t just a Carly Rae Jepsen hit anymore, it’s a prescription. Social-distancing and self-isolating do not have to mean you’re alone in this. We’re all going through the same strange times. Reach out to your loved ones. By phone, by text, by email. Video-chat. Write handwritten letters. Call someone you haven’t talked to in years or months. Let the people in your life know how much they mean to you. For many, this can be a time to rearrange our priorities. To remember what’s important.
What are you doing to stay sane during quarantine? What things spark joy in your life?
Stay Safe and Stay Healthy,