Dear Unproductivity


Courtesy of NYT

Jasmine Sun

In the past few weeks, my screen time has admittedly gone up by 87%. The main culprits? Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. But on all of these, it seems that wherever I look, there’s an inescapable trend taking over these platforms: a push to somehow “better” ourselves during this time spent in quarantine. 

Even the meme accounts I follow have been infiltrated with this ideology. My feed has been littered with posts about how we’ll look after the “quarantine fifteen” if we somehow “let ourselves go,” followed by a sponsored post about at-home fitness plan and recipe apps. Real subtle there. 

While it’s no surprise that the $72 billion dollar diet industry would jump on the chance to capitalize off of this pandemic in a time of such great uncertainty and instability, promoting the idea that this is by some means an “opportunity” to seize can be especially toxic and harmful. Physical health is an important component of our lives, but there is a bold line between self-care and being pushed over the edge to do things dictated by society, and in no way should you have to sacrifice one aspect of health in an attempt to fulfill another.  

Rather, our focus should be on doing what’s in our personal scope to take care of our minds and bodies, especially during a time when our relationships with others may feel particularly strained. This being said, it could be healing to do what we can to check in on others and create a sense of support 

When I say “doing what we can”, I truly mean doing what each of us personally is capable of to help ourselves and others. During these trying times, our mental, emotional and financial capabilities, just to name a few, have been particularly strained. While it may be instinctual to try to be a safety net for others, we need to make sure that we are in a good space to take it on. 

Especially for those already faced with mental health struggles or issues of their own, the responsibility of bearing another person’s problems, no matter how close they are to us, requires emotional availability and can be truthfully mentally draining despite the urge to help.

Nonetheless, focus on doing what you can in terms of being kind to yourself and others, and giving what you’re able to.  As someone who was at one time obsessed with meeting this world’s expectations and who struggled with body image for years, accepting the lack of control that we have over our daily lives is difficult. But these sharp and drastic changes have become our new normal, and the anxious, scared, all-over-the-place feelings that come with it are, too. 

However, despite what it might feel like, none of these emotions or setbacks are representations of our personal failures in any way. We, as humans, are not meant to live this way, in isolation and the unknown. Yet we have been in the midst of a global pandemic, trying to survive, and our focus should be just that: doing what we can to take care of ourselves and each other. 

So as we prepare to ease out of quarantine, it’s my hope that we do so with no resentment or guilt for what we may have not done during this time, but rather compassion for this shared experience that we’ve all navigated in slightly different ways.