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Feeling the pressure to be productive during COVID-19? You're not alone.

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

It seems everywhere you look at the moment people are embracing the current pandemic as an opportunity to be productive, learning new skills or developing hobbies; baking, gardening and decorating to name but a few. Or at the very least, this is how it presents on social media.


Despite this, it’s safe to say that not everyone is responding to the coronavirus pandemic in the same way and some may be feeling the pressure to be productive in lockdown. The initial energy you might have had to make to-do lists may be beginning to wear off, or you might not have had it in the first place. This could trigger negative thoughts about yourself: Why am I not doing what they’re doing? Am I doing enough?


As a society we have evolved to expect a lot of ourselves and tend to hold the belief that we’re only acceptable as long as we’re productive or achieving. Perhaps without realising, we frequently link our behaviour or performance with self-worth so when we’re being less productive, we can feel that we’re failing in some way.


The truth of the matter is that whether you’re being productive or not at the moment, it’s ok. In the middle of a global pandemic that none of us have experienced in our lifetime, there are no straight and fast rules.


What we can do though is be kind to ourselves. Perhaps easier said than done, but it’s never been more important to show ourselves some self-compassion. There may be days where we thrive and days where it’s just about muddling through. We’re all adjusting to circumstances that are unfamiliar to us and that adjustment might take time. This is useful to remember whenever we notice negative self-judgement sneak in because it’s ok to not be ok.


By being more self-compassionate we can develop our ability to tolerate or perhaps accept some of the uncertainty we’re living in. Self-compassion can help us become more focused and enable us to manage difficult feelings like fear and anxiety. Dr Kristen Neff - one of the leading researchers in self-compassion – encourages us to treat ourselves like we would a close friend. What we often find is that this is different to how we would automatically treat ourselves. Take a look here for more self-compassionate exercises you can try.


A lot of us have questions and are seeking a sense of control in our lives at the moment but it’s often more helpful to accept that this isn’t always possible in all domains of life. Instead, we can focus on the aspects of life that we can control, whether this involves productivity or not. Building a routine is still important (see Steve’s previous post about the benefits of a routine here) and can give you a sense of accomplishment, but there is still merit in giving yourself a break and resisting the urge to fill every minute of the day.



Cat Atkinson

Student Wellbeing Advisor - Faculty of Arts & Humanities

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