What you really need

Anyone else been spending more time on the Internet lately?

I—along with the rest of the planet—have been spending more time at home these days, and as I’ve been scrolling my social media feeds over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed two opposing ideas circulating about what we should be doing when we’re stuck at home due to social distancing.

The first approach to our extra time at home is to kick back, relax, and enjoy uninterrupted Netflix time in our free evenings. The second is to come up with a list of goals or projects—sometimes called a “quarantine bucket list”—to accomplish now that we have so much extra time at home.

“You’ll never get a chance like this again!” I hear people saying. “Imagine what you could do with all these extra hours!” They point to the list of classic books you’ve been meaning to read “someday, if I get around to it” and all the projects you’ve wished you could do if you had the time, and they tell you, “Now’s your chance to accomplish all these things!”

Now, before I go any further, let me be clear: you are absolutely free to undertake a massive project during your extra time at home. You can write the book you’ve always meant to write. You can start a YouTube channel. You can renovate a room in your house—or renovate your entire house, for that matter, if you have the skills and materials to do so. You can sew a quilt, bake elaborate cakes, expand your business, read War and Peace.

Or—you could make a cup of hot cocoa and stare out the window and not really “do” a whole lot beyond the basics. You could take care of your home and your family and do literally nothing else the entire time you’re stuck at home. And that would also be perfectly fine.

Here’s the thing: even though we’re all going through the same global crisis together, we’re each experiencing this pandemic in different ways. Some have a lighter workload now that they’ve switched to working from home; others have more to do than ever. Some feel relaxed at the prospect of not having to leave the house; others are stressed because they no longer have a consistent income to depend on. Some have more alone time to rest, recharge, and reconnect with their passions; others are spending all day homeschooling their children on top of the work they were already doing before everything got turned upside-down. Some are struggling with anxiety; others don’t feel much more anxious than usual.

We’re all going to do something with the extra time we’re spending at home—but what you choose to do with it is entirely dependent on what kind of mental space you’re in right now. Do you feel rested, focused, and energized? Tackle a project that inspires you. Do you feel exhausted and worn out even though you haven’t gone anywhere? Slow down and give yourself time to rest—rest, at least, from the mental narrative that you “should” be doing anything at all beyond the most basic of tasks.

I want to encourage you to do what serves your mental health best. What’s best for you might not be what’s best for your neighbor or your best friend or that person on Instagram who’s been making artisan bread from scratch for supper every night. Don’t get me wrong, baking fancy breads is a wonderful use of self-isolation time—but so is eating popcorn and watching a movie because your brain is just so done at the end of the day, or sleeping in an extra hour because you’re just really tired right now, or choosing not to sweep your floors as often as you usually do because you and your children need to spend more time curled up on the couch reading good books and learning what healthy emotional processing looks like in a crisis.

Hear this loud and clear: you are doing enough, no matter how much or how little you feel like you’re “accomplishing”. You do not have to do what anyone else is doing nor what you or anyone else thinks you “should” be doing right now. Just do what you need, one day at a time.

What is working for you during this time of social distancing? Share what you’re doing in the comments!

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