In an instance, our lives changed.

One moment it was business as usual, going to work, catching up with loved ones, spending weekends away, going out to the movies or just dining out at our favourite cafe or restaurant and in a blink of the eye, this all changed.

We were informed of a highly infectious virus; a state of emergency was then declared, and we were then notified that the best line of defence was to stay at home, to wash our hands, to only go out if needed, and if we did go out, to ensure physical distancing was in place.

When the stay at home directive was put in place, there was some initial excitement as to all the wonderful things we could do to fill in our time, and how we would be super productive whilst in quarantine.

But in fact, for many people (including myself) it’s been quite the opposite! It’s actually harder to be more productive when your daily routine is disrupted; when your partner or your children are also at home; when you feel that you can’t go out and if you decide to venture out, you must have a valid reason to do so!

On top of this, the constant news and media reports highlighting the devastating global impact of COVID-19 starts to become overwhelming and distressing. With the added pressures to fill in time and to be super productive during lock down, this can all be too much.

So what can we do if we feel that we are being less than productive?

Five tips that can help:

1. Acknowledge the loss of freedom and independence 

Firstly, acknowledge the sadness and grief of having lost our independence and freedom. What we’re currently experiencing is real, is difficult, and is a normal reaction. Without acknowledgment, we’re not able to move forward, nor are we able to spend our time at home wisely and with clarity.

Once acknowledged, it is important to then reframe our thoughts by reminding ourselves that all our personal contributions are playing a postive role to slow and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Just as importantly, we are protecting the most vulnerable people in our communty. I often think of my elderly parents and my grandma when I’m struggling with my loss of independence. I also remind myself of this great act of love where we’re all staying at home to protect our community and our loved ones…

2. Ignore social media and the ‘influencers’ who are portraying a life filled with productivity and self-improvement

Social media is currently filled with ideas of what we ‘should’ be doing in quarantine. Whether it’s learning a new language, completing studies online, writing a book, re-decorating our home or just using this time to reinvent ourselves and to update all that we know and do.

This however, is just not realistic for many of us. In fact, the increasing pressure to perform and do better is very unhelpful for most people in our community; for many people this pandemic does not provide any ‘opportunity’ to be more creative and productive – all it can provide, is the opportunity to just ‘be’.

Some of us can’t sleep, some people are struggling with their mental health, some people have lost their loved ones, many have lost their regular income and are struggling to put food on the table, others have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, and some people in our community are experiencing domestic violence at an alarming rate.

It is important during this difficult time, that we all give ourselves a break, and instead, focus on what we personally are physically and mentally able to cope with right now. If that means today you’re going to stay in your pjamas all day, then that’s okay! Do so without the guilt.

If it means that all you can manage whilst home schooling is to ensure that you cook healthy and nutritious meals for your family, this too is okay!

If it means that I’m going to spend my time in the garden today pulling weeds or baking a cake, so be it!

Find what works for you and cut out the social media clutter that is encouraging you to be the best you can be. Of course if this time in self-isolation is empowering you to do something, then embrace it, but if it doesn’t, then be kind and compassionate instead….

3. Build some routine into your day

Productivity is about perception. What one person defines productive, another will describe it in a different way.

What can help when self-isolating, is to try and create some structure into your day to help you keep focused and energised.

Focus on easy tasks first and as you continue to adjust to this new normal, you will be able to tackle the more challenging tasks and goals. There’s no timeframe however, work at your own pace, no matter how slow and steady that pace is.

Staying at home and attending to daily needs is enough. No matter what you’re doing, the goal is to keep moving forward, one step at a time…

4. Stay socially connected with your loved ones

We are social creatures and now more than ever, it’s important that we remain connected with the people that we love and that are closest to us in our lives. Whether it’s a phone call, a video call, or a short text message to check in to see how your loved one is – take the initiative to do so. Be authentic and share your thoughts and experiences. Take your time (there’s no where to rush off to), and have meaningful conversation with your family and friends.

As part of your conversation with your loved ones, ask them how they’re occupying their time at home. What are they doing to help themselves rest and recharge during this unusual time? How are they coping with their mental health? Are they filling in their time by keeping active or going for more walks around their neighbourhood? What are they reading to keep themselves energised and focused? Such conversations not only enrich our relationships, but also provide us with the opportunity to share our small wins along the way…

If however, you’re feeling lonely and isolated, and are struggling with your mental health during this time, please reach out and seek the many professional services to help you. Beyond Blue has a dedicated Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service. It’s a great resource, provides practical information and is available at Lifeline is also available on 1311 14.

5. Acknowledge the wins

During this difficult time, focus on what you are achieving, no matter how small or trivial you think it might be.

Fixed your bed today? That’s a win!

Went for short walk at lunchtime today? What a great way to boost your energy!

Cooked a hearty dinner meal for your family? What a treat!

Phoned a friend that you haven’t spoken to in awhile? Give yourself a pat on the back for taking the initiative to do so.

Our perception plays an important role. Reframe productivity to what it means to you, focus on the wins, and the let others do what is right for them…

We hope you enjoyed this post, and until next time, wish you all great health and wellbeing.

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