The “productive pandemic” trend
If you’re not doing live-streaming workout challenges, swapping recipes, or teaching yourself a new language, are you even quarantining? From celebrities to your next-door neighbour, it seems like everyone is brimming with productivity as they master yet another new coronavirus lockdown hobby. And then you realise you haven’t learned or baked a single thing because you’re eye-deep in work deadlines, caring for loved ones and, you know, trying to flatten the curve by not getting sick or making other people sick.
You may be feeling the pressure to be your best productive self. You’re worried you’re falling behind or even “failing” at quarantine. The fear of missing out (FOMO) is real.
But relax, there’s no “right” way to “do” quarantine: Remember, the goal is simply to make it out safe and relatively sane and if you’ve done that, you’ve succeeded, says Dr Jennifer Wolkin, a clinical neuropsychologist. “This is a really unique situation we’re in and everyone handles stress and fear differently, so start by giving yourself credit for doing the best you can,” she says.
Whatever you are doing to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic is fine and you don’t need to feel bad or ashamed about it. This doesn’t mean you should give up on quarantine goals, but rather make sure you’re setting your own goals and not basing them off what others are doing, says Dr Steven M Sultanoff, a clinical psychologist. One of the best ways to get rid of FOMO is to reconcile your quarantine expectations with reality.
Expectation: I will win quarantine
It’s human nature to compare yourself to others – and with social media, there are endless options – but the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine has really increased this tendency, Wolkin says. Before you beat yourself up for falling into the comparison trap, know there’s a good reason for it. Constantly watching others during this pandemic can help you feel more connected to others, deal with boredom, and gives you a small sense of control, she explains.
Competing against the crowd comes with a big downside. “Comparing yourself to others gives them power over you and makes you feel like you’re not enough,” she says. “This increases the pressure and stress on you which can lead to some very real suffering.”
Reality: Instead she says, set realistic challenges, like spending more quality time (and less binge-watching time) with your “quaranteam” (the ones in your house or on Zoom). “You can be gentle and loving with yourself while still holding yourself accountable,” Wolkin adds.
Expectation: I should be doing more
A lot of these feelings of FOMO can be traced back to one little word: Should, says Sultanoff. “Every time you think you ‘should’ be doing something, ask yourself ‘why,’” he says. “For instance, should you be learning to play the recorder right now? Really? Is that a rule of quarantine?” The problem with this word is that it frames things in a negative way, making you feel pressured to do them and guilty and upset when you don’t.
Reality: “Instead of making rules for yourself based on what other people are doing, take a minute to ask yourself what you want to be doing and then phrase it in a positive way,” he says. “If you don’t want to learn a musical instrument then there’s no reason you should but if you do, then say, ‘I want to learn to play the recorder.’ You may end up doing the same thing but it will feel a lot better because you’ll be doing it for you.”