What are the consequences of isolating for months at a time? Since the beginning of this COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world have implemented some form of isolationism, whether it be social distancing measures, curfews, or total lockdowns. With millions of jobs lost, and complete uncertainty about what comes next, many people are struggling to keep themselves occupied. One of the biggest consequences of this pandemic, isolation for a few months, and the constant exposure to negative news is on mental health.
A lot of memes on social media have been depicting scenarios of isolation where introverts thrive and extroverts don’t. At first glance it seems like a funny role reversal of social presence. Often in schools and workplaces, extrovertedness is rewarded while introvertedness isn’t, introverts are therefore seen as those that will automatically thrive in isolation. However, it is not that simple.
Social media is flooded with people using this newfound free time to do things that they otherwise would not have done. From painting houses, to doing projects that have been long forgotten due to the busy lifestyle many of us lead inspired by ‘hustle culture’. Hustle culture is a culture of constant working, where idleness is looked at as being unproductive. One would think that with the sudden increase in free time, the notion of hustle culture would not permeate into our private personal lives, however, it has.
Keeping oneself occupied is a form of a coping mechanism for many suffering from various mental health issues such as anxiety or stress, it distracts the mind from the negativity of the pandemic, or their surroundings, and instead focuses them on the task at hand. Many social media influencers and members of our social circles have been sharing projects and simple things that they are crossing of their lists rapidly with all the free time that they have. While at first it was a form of celebration, inspiration, and a method of coping with the sheer emptiness of our lives without school or work, it slowly turned into its own form of hustle. Now, people are constantly sharing what new thing they are doing that day, or all the different projects that they have started. This is fantastic, however it can also be detrimental to the mental health of some.
Productivity is NOT a contest.
I myself had fallen into this trap. At the beginning, I was very excited to spend a lot of time at home and to do all the things I otherwise wouldn’t have done. From new online courses, to family game nights, to art projects, I loved isolation. However, a couple days would go by where I would simply do nothing except watch tv shows on Netflix. A couple days would turn into a week or two and I would leave my projects and courses on pause. I started to feel bad, thinking about how unproductive I was being, how much time I was wasting while I looked at my friends and acquaintances on social media thriving. Feeling bad turned into anxiety about how quickly time was flying by where I was doing absolutely nothing and eventually time would run out and I would have missed an opportunity to do everything I wanted to do, just as I would have if I wasn’t in isolation.
Afterwards, I spent some time journalling and writing my speeding thoughts out, thinking out my situation rationally. I realised, we are living through an unprecedented time, most of the people in my social circle have never lived through a situation like this in their life before. No one was pressuring me, no one was saying that I needed to be productive, or that I needed to spend this time in isolation just like what I thought everyone else was doing. I realised that I too would only post on my instagram or snapchat stories of things that I did occasionally that I was proud of, whether it be cookies I baked that day, or a painting. So everyone that I saw on social media were probably doing the same thing. What they showed was not what every moment of their life in isolation looked like. Not everyone was thriving, everyone is dealing with this newfound reality in their own way.
There is no one set guideline of how to heal, or spend time during this pandemic. Everyone has their own methods, everyone has their high and low periods, everyone has good and bad days, and everyone has their own unique domestic situations. There is no race to see who is the most productive, and there is no prize for how many things you accomplish. Do what makes you feel safe, what makes you feel whole and comforted. If you see yourself spending weeks on the couch watching your tv shows and it makes you happy, go for it! If you want to change up your routine and suddenly want to do something creative, go for it! If you just want to sleep all day and let your body and mind get some rest, go for it!
At the end of the day, what matters is you, and your health and wellbeing. Take a step back and see what makes you feel happy and secure, and how you can do that in a healthy and meaningful way.