We all have digressed from our usual patterns. Reduced social interaction and contact, lesser activity, and prolonged periods of isolation have wreaked havoc on every individual. We often compare our capability of now and that of before. In a work culture that only wants more and more from us, we need to set boundaries ourselves. We cannot fight these mighty waves with our pre-pandemic buckets. Changed patterns — professional, emotional, psychological, mental — are okay. You are not meant to carry the whole world on your shoulders with crippling anxiety. After all, it was a catastrophe, not an improvement break.
“It’s November already. I am one year into my graduation. I haven’t been to university even once. Counting all the experiences that I could have had but didn’t, I take a sip of tea from my cup. Maybe I could have done more because I have had more time on my hands these days. Perhaps I could have read more books this year or learned something new. But I didn’t. Am I not capable? Am I not good at this? No, wait. It was a catastrophe, not an improvement break!”
We all have digressed from our usual patterns and lifestyle in the shift from offline to online mode. With everything on one single screen, it’s easier to lose the grip; we easily convince ourselves that we aren’t doing enough. From losing interest in our hobbies to almost losing our sanity, we have come a long way. Apart from taking so many lives and affecting every realm of human existence, the COVID-19 pandemic has tested our mental and psychological limits. Reduced social interaction and contact, lesser activity and prolonged periods of isolation have wreaked havoc on every individual. Not to forget the deaths, the trauma, and the loss of livelihoods that have also crept in. With the crisis still on, we need to be kinder to ourselves and those around us to minimize further losses.
In the grind yourself culture, we’ve become conscious of how much we have or haven’t done, and the guilt trip has already begun for so many of us.
“I did absolutely nothing, and I have just wasted all my time.” / “It’s already been a week, and I haven’t completed this novel.” / “It’s been two days, and I haven’t completed my assignment.” / “My colleagues are already ahead of me, and I am still procrastinating to start the project.”
It is a totally natural human trait to strive to become a better person, learn more, and improve. Still, the notion of toxic productivity has somewhere blended itself so profoundly in everything we do that the checkpoint needs to be made bigger and thicker so that we identify it before we collapse under the thrust of our own limits. Be it jobs, crafts, art, business, or academia, the notion of perfectibility keeps pushing us, and the supremacy of numbers drives us more and more, but it’s usually after damage is done, we realize that there’s a limit to the core of humanness and every action that sprouts from it.
What started as a pandemic is ending up as a measuring gauge for us. We often compare our current capability to before, totally forgetting or maybe ignoring what we have come across and witnessed. Mental fatigue is as real as physical. Just because the body didn’t move, exhaustion cannot be denied. Time is needed to process all that’s been going on. In a work culture that only wants more and more from us, we need to set a boundary ourselves. We cannot fight these mighty waves with our pre-pandemic buckets. We haven’t seen something like this before, and it will have its impact. We deserve a rest, a mental rest. These times have pulled our hair strand by strand, scalped each one of us, each one of us went through something, and we all went through it together. Lack of focus, inability to concentrate, doubled waves of procrastination, and slightest will to communicate are just a few things showing up slowly and slowly. We have been affected, and that needs a kinder acceptance.
These Mitch Albom words can be the initial push: “We need to forgive ourselves. For all the things we didn’t do. All the things we should have done. You can’t get stuck on the regrets of what should have happened.”
The pandemic was a catastrophe; it was no adventure. It’s not a measuring gauge. These times are testing our limits, not defining our capabilities. Changed patterns – professional, emotional, psychological, mental – are okay. We went through a fire; burns are meant to itch. Seek help, call out, don’t beat yourself up for a cup of tea and a break. Waves will settle. Prioritize your mental health over the race of numbers, learn to create a balance. You are not meant to carry the whole world on your shoulders with crippling anxiety. Take your time; we are all struggling. This is not the final call; this is a stepping stone.
Taizeem Bilal is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Diptarka Chatterjee