Silencing your inner-critic in the middle of a pandemic

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Noor Sabha

Noor Sabha shares how to avoid creating an enemy out of yourself in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Since the emergence of Covid-19 and the gradual increase in the implementation of lockdown measures, I’ve noticed that lots of people on social media are talking about using this time of crisis “to be extra productive”. Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and the rest, is full of people sharing their new language skills, interest in a new hobby, intentions to unleash their creative thoughts or finally getting around to finishing up that project that they had spent forever working on. Some users implied that not using this time wisely would make you a foolish failure, because what else do you have to do, right? Wrong. 

What these messages are essentially saying, is that even in the midst of a global crisis, humans cannot stop, breathe, and take a break. We always need to be productive, to create, to do, to keep going. It highlights the reality of our modern culture, where pausing and admitting that things are tough almost always equates to defeat, failure, and not trying hard enough. Therefore, inevitably, those of us who can’t live up to such expectations of productivity in these exasperating times are left feeling guilty, amongst all the other difficult emotions that a global pandemic offers.

At the very beginning of the lockdown, I thought that this time would be a great opportunity for me to catch up on all my university work and would let me get a headstart on revision. However, lockdown had a different plan for me. Day four of lockdown I congratulated myself on having a shower. Day six of lockdown I managed to cook something. Day seven of lockdown I bought some essential groceries and in a moment of excessive pride, I rewarded myself with a four-hour nap. Day eight of lockdown, I wasn’t sure if I ever woke up from the nap or I slept through to the next day, so I stayed in bed and watched Netflix to ease my confusion. Day nine of lockdown, I burnt toast. Day 10 of lockdown I realised I’ve spent more than half of the past 10 days sleeping and the other half feeling guilty about it. Day 14 of lockdown, I no longer knew what day it was. But, reality hit me and I was starting to accept it; the whole world has stopped, a global crisis is underway and I was beating myself up for not being able to live my life as I normally would. For a moment, I found it bizarre that I even expected myself to carry on living my life as I used to before, just in between four walls.  

I was scrolling through Facebook that night, trying to numb my mind to the never-ending headlines of panic, and I came across a post that read; “you are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.” This post was the start of my journey of trying to be kinder to myself during this punishing and heartbreaking time for everyone around the world. We are all facing the same invisible enemy and if we do one thing during this pandemic and lockdown, it should be not giving ourselves another enemy to face; ourself. 

There is no obligation to use the time that we have now to do anything that our bodies or our minds are not wanting or are not capable of doing just now. It’s okay to just do whatever makes your body and mind feel good, feel at ease, and feel cared for. I write poetry to cope with tough times and to document them for future me, I sometimes draw my feelings too, but I don’t necessarily enjoy learning a new language. It’s never been my thing and it won’t become my thing in the midst of a pandemic. Do whatever gets you through and whatever used to get you through, whether that’s watching Netflix mindlessly, going for a run or listening to music as you cook your favourite meal. If you fancy doing nothing for a few days, allow yourself that. Doing nothing can be hard work, allowing yourself what you need is always hard work. If you need to busy to stay well, then do just that. 

There is no right or wrong way to get through a pandemic. 

We’re all learning, mourning, grieving, and trying to make an incredibly difficult and abnormal time, as normal as it can possibly be. We’re all managing the stress that the virus brings, that the media brings, and the stress of making sure that we and our loved ones are well, all whilst trying to keep up with work, assignments, staying connected and having some time for ourselves. That is why it is incredibly important to not only look after your physical health during this time but your mental health too. Mental health can become extremely fragile in times of acute distress. 

I used to rely on hugs and being surrounded by my friends to get through a rough patch – neither of which are an option now. Instead, I’m alone in a three-bedroom flat, where it can get extremely lonely to be surrounded by the same four walls and no people, day in and day out. My own personal Groundhog Day. It can flare up previous issues and symptoms, especially with lots of mental health support services being put on pause or being moved to taking place over the phone, which is often, just not quite the same. And yes, these things can be thought of as small in comparison to the grand scheme of everything happening now, but struggling and pain are relative. Another person’s pain does not make yours invalid. 

This pandemic has pressed this huge, imaginary pause button on our entire world, it’s okay if we too press a huge, imaginary pause button on our busy, achievement-focused lives. We can sit and think of all the things that we are missing. I certainly miss overpriced coffee, a warm, long hug, sitting in a lecture, taking in nothing but being surrounded by all my friends. I miss wandering aimlessly in parks, smiling at strangers, and cuddling random dogs. I miss human connection. I miss walking around the School of Psychology, chatting to my lecturers about my day, my assignments and sometimes if I’m lucky, getting to see pictures of their dogs doing cute things. I miss hearing my friends laugh in person and I miss catching up with them over a meal in a restaurant or a coffee in our favourite cafe. I miss seeing them anywhere but behind a screen. I miss all those things and more, and I am allowing myself to miss them.

It’s now a good few weeks into the lockdown, and both my mind and my body are adjusting, they are able to do more of the things that I enjoy doing and they are able to stay connected more often. They just needed time to catch up on what’s happening in the world around them. That time was enforced upon me, upon you, upon us, but we will be okay. This will not last forever and sooner or later, whilst sticking to guidelines and staying safe, you will find yourself in a loved one’s arms and you will realize just how much the small things in life really matter. Today, take a few minutes to think of all the things that you cannot wait to do when all of this is over, no matter how small or how big.


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