You're Not the Only One Who's Having Trouble Getting Through Your To-Do List
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Life can be hard — there’s no denying that.
But for the past few weeks, life has felt especially overwhelming, and we all know why.
When I first heard of “The Virus That Shall Not Be Named,” like most people, I wasn’t too concerned. I mean, news of a widespread virus isn’t a new thing. A few years ago, there was Ebola, and a few years before that, there was the swine flu. While these viruses certainly affected a lot of people, everyday life wasn’t impacted for many — that’s what I thought would happen with the coronavirus (COVID-19), the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system.
Boy oh boy, was I wrong.
By March, everything went to shit. As the virus began to spread rapidly through the U.S., hospitals flooded with an influx of sick patients, plans we’d been looking forward to for months, even years, were canceled and places felt like ghost towns, as many business owners were forced to close their doors.
As a senior in college, I found myself in a whiplash-like state of mind. When I had left for spring break, I thought I’d be coming back to school with another two months before I had to say goodbye, but that wouldn’t be the case. Campus events were canceled, classes were moved online and a place I had learned to call “home” was closed — everything I had known for the past two years was gone in just a few days.
I was anxious, and most of all, in disbelief. “This isn’t happening,” I thought. “This is the plot of a dystopian young adult novel. This isn’t real life.”
Overwhelmed with emotions, I did what I normally do when everything I’m feeling or thinking becomes too much to keep inside — I popped in my earbuds, blasted “sad girl hours” on Spotify and opened up my journal, but I couldn’t write. I stared at the blank page like I was SpongeBob when he tried to write an essay and could only write the word “The” — the words just wouldn’t come out.
Because the truth was, I didn’t know what I was feeling.
Although I was aware of everything that was happening, there was an unexplainable distance between myself, my friends and family members and the world around me. I felt disconnected from reality and, in a way, at peace. Not the kind of peace you have when you’re sitting on the beach with your friends in the summer, but rather a numbed calmness. It was like my brain said, “There’s a lot going on right now and I feel a lot of things. Guess I just won’t feel anything at all!”
Despite being in a weird state of limbo where I felt OK but also not OK, I was determined to make quarantine my bitch. I set my alarm to go on early-morning runs, I peeled myself out of my sweats and put on jeans and I sat at my dining room table and called it “my new work desk.” Heck, I even told myself I was going to start working on the creative projects I had been putting off for months.
Ha! I was a fool. I was hopeful, I’ll give myself that, but still a fool nonetheless.
Let’s just say my lack of motivation made working from home a bit of a challenge. While classes, my internship and my job at my college’s newspaper continued remotely, I couldn’t find the drive to do the work, or anything that required much brain power. I started to fall behind on my work for my internship and my college’s newspaper, and it took me longer to actually start school assignments, let alone finish them. My environment heavily affects how productive I am, and I soon realized I just wasn’t a work-from-home kind of gal.
The more I fell behind, the more guilt and anxiety I felt. Although there was a pandemic, I still had responsibilities: I had to write and edit a bunch of articles, I had to continue doing work for my internship and, most importantly, I had to start applying for “big girl” jobs. Although commencement would now be virtual, I was still graduating in less than two months, and the reality of adulting was approaching quicker than I thought.
With a dozen tasks to do, I became increasingly overwhelmed. Every day, I said to myself, “I want to accomplish x, y and z today,” but only half of x would get done, while y and z would get left in the “I’ll do this tomorrow” pile (but I knew well enough things in that pile never got done).
When I’d sit on the couch to “take a break,” I would feel guilty for not being productive. Why was I scrolling through TikTok, bored out of my mind, when I could be doing all of the things I said I would do if I had more time? I was restless, but unmotivated, a combination that only made me more frustrated each day. I didn’t know how long this funk would last or how to crawl out of it, and I hated it.
Today, things are better. Not ideal or perfect, but better.
My schedule hasn’t changed that much since the start of quarantine; it’s just been a bit altered and amplified. My normal, day-to-day routine already consisted of exercising each morning, going to school or work and relaxing at night — I still do most of that, but it’s just different. I’ve traded the gym for neighborhood walks/runs, driving to campus or work for walking from my bedroom to my dining room table and only relaxing at night to relaxing almost 24/7.
Some days are harder than others, though. I have a number of family members who work in healthcare and friends who’ve been deeply affected by the virus, and it breaks my heart when I want to help but I don’t know how.
I also have a lot of anxiety toward finding a job when the market is a literal shitshow. As a soon-to-be journalism graduate, the prospect of landing a job was already going to be difficult. I mean, before the virus even appeared, well-paid creative jobs that don’t require a two-hour commute to NYC were rare. Now that everything’s gone to shit, many places aren’t even hiring interns (my internship was unfortunately suspended due to the pandemic), let alone full-time employees, which has made my anxiety toward job hunting go into maximum overdrive.
Now that it’s been about a month since I’ve started quarantining, I miss a lot of things: I miss walking around campus, going to a local bar and exercising at the gym; I miss eating at a restaurant, going to the store and walking on the beach with my dog; heck, I even miss fighting for a damn spot in the parking garage.
Most of all, I miss being around people. Although I’m an introvert, this self-isolation is too much. It’s like I’m a phone that’s been charging at 100 percent for the past few weeks — I’ve had more than enough alone time. I’m charged and ready to go socialize with my friends, man.
But this is the new normal. While it’s disheartening to miss out on a lot of things, there’s a lot I’m grateful for, like being able to live with my family, stay connected with supportive friends and go for walks around my neighborhood when it’s warm and sunny outside.
As a senior, I’m also grateful for the support my friends and family members have shown me. Does it suck eggs my already-brief time at my college (#transferprobz) was cut even shorter? Of course. But I am thankful for all of the highs and lows, memories and lifelong friends I’ve made within the past few years.
The fact of the matter is, life is unpredictable and uncontrollable.
We don’t know how long this will last or what life will be like when it’s over, but how things are now is not how they’ll be forever. Today, it’s hard to remember what life was like before the COVID-19 pandemic, but someday, it will be over, we’ll be able to reunite with our loved ones and go to the places we’ve missed for weeks and life will return to normal. I don’t know when that someday will come, but it will come.
For now, the best thing we can do is take it day by day, perhaps even hour by hour, as I’ve come to learn things are more manageable when they’re in smaller, bite-sized pieces. Rather than give myself an endless to-do list each day (and inevitably feel guilty when I don’t complete everything on the list), I now motivate myself by saying “OK, let’s work on x for a bit. It’s OK if I don’t finish it today, but I can try to work on it little by little each day, and that’s good enough for me.”
It’s also important to remember everything you go through is valid. Sometimes, I feel guilty for grieving over my senior year and graduation, when there are thousands of people dying and being overworked to the bone.
But, the thing is, what other people go through doesn’t invalidate what you go through by any means. Practice gratitude for what you do have, but understand it’s OK to grieve over the rest of your senior year being “ruined,” it’s OK to be upset your birthday wasn’t what you expected, it’s OK to feel upset about anything, big or small.
Give yourself the room to feel what you need to feel, but don’t let it overcome you entirely. Take care of your mental and physical health, but don’t stress about being perfect 100 percent of the time. We are human, we’re going through a historic pandemic and it’s OK to handle things at your own pace.
Stay healthy, and just think — in a couple of decades, it’ll be an interesting story to tell the grandkids.
For more on the coronavirus, check out the following stories from our community:
- 7 Things to Do If Social Distancing Is Triggering Your Depression
- How Can You Tell the Difference Between Anxiety and COVID-19 Symptoms?
- What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19
- 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend
- 6 Tips If You’re Anxious About Being Unable to Go to Therapy Because of COVID-19
- What to Do If the Coronavirus Health Guidelines Are Triggering Your Anxiety or OCD
- Please Wash Your Hands Year-Round — Not ‘Just’ Because of the Coronavirus
A version of this story was originally published on Your Friend Jane.
Unpslash image by Trent Szmolnik