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Why we shouldn't feel pressured to be productive during COVID-19

Rebecca talks about the importance of looking after your mental health rather than stressing about being productive


Written by Rebecca Adeyemo and posted in opinion


This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact editor@spunout.ie.


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This year has been a surprising one, to say the least. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all being asked to stay at home where possible and social distance. I think we can all agree that there is a lot of pressure on social media to be productive while at home during this pandemic. While on social media, I saw a quote that said 'if you don't gain a new skill or have a 'hustle' coming out of quarantine, then you don't lack time, you lack discipline.' I found this statement to be extremely ignorant as it puts a lot of pressure on people and pushes hustle culture.

What is hustle culture

Hustle culture is this idea that you can only thrive and succeed by constantly pushing yourself. Hustle culture has some benefits, but in my opinion it can also glamorize pushing yourself beyond your limit and a toxic level of productivity. I think it can be harmful to our mental health.

A pandemic is something that none of us have experienced in our lifetime. Assuming everyone has loads of time during this quarantine just isn't realistic. As the eldest child of a first-generation immigrant, this pandemic has brought about a new set of responsibilities and duties for me. As I’m the first to go to college in my family, I’ve been given responsibilities such as helping my siblings with their schoolwork. I have family members who would be considered 'vulnerable’ so I sometimes have to help babysit while my family are at hospital appointments and check-ups. On top of that I’m a first year college student who is getting used to online learning. For me there are a lot of challenges that come with online learning such as the small amount of space there is to do college work. Also having a very busy household with other siblings doing school online means the noise factor during online lectures can be an issue too. This is why I believe that pressure to be productive during this time, while dealing with all these other factors in our lives, can be overwhelming to anyone.

Everyone's situation is different

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with using this time to learn a new hobby or language. But I think pushing people to be really productive can be harmful to people’s mental health and doesn’t take into account people who are already dealing with mental health issues, such as anxiety. Personally, I feel that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of stress on young people as there is a lot of uncertainty right now in terms of education and life generally. This can lead to a lot of anxiety that we have to manage in whatever way we can. I have to remind myself to take a break from social media sometimes because the news alerts can be overwhelming at times. Taking a break from my phone and focusing on what I like doing, are important for me. This might mean that I’m not being very productive, but it’s important for my health. 

Another problem with assuming everyone can be productive during this time, is that there is a lack of understanding for people living in confined spaces such as emergency accommodation, Direct Provision, and halting sites, where even social distancing isn't possible. I think it’s important to understand how the restrictions are impacting all groups in our society and acknowledge that people are faced with even more challenges during this pandemic.

How can we help others in our community?

It’s important to become aware of the challenges facing others during this time. There are many ways we can become more aware of others. Checking up on family and friends to see if they need any help with groceries or necessities if they are having issues with getting to stores is one way. Another way would be to donate to different organisations helping those most vulnerable in our society and maybe even donating some food to your local food bank if you can.

You're doing the best you can

I'm here to tell you that it's okay to not be productive during this pandemic. Firstly, this pandemic is new for all of us and it's also a time filled with a lot of uncertainty. The constant reminders of newly identified cases can be overwhelming for anyone. It's okay to spend this free time with your family or catch up on your favourite movies and TV shows. Social media can be draining. It's important to remember that you are only seeing a small part of a person's life online, so just because some people seem to be thriving in this pandemic, does not mean everyone is. Everyone deals with things differently and that's okay. It's important during this time to take every day as it comes by focusing on the present.

Finally, no matter how you spend this time in quarantine, make sure to use this time to look after yourself and your wellbeing whatever way you can. Try not to allow what you see on social media make you feel inadequate. You are doing the best you can.

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Published May 5th2020
Last updated Sep­tem­ber 23rd2020
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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