Two Ways to Begin Prioritizing Your Mental Health Over Productivity During a Pandemic

Two Ways to Begin Prioritizing Your Mental Health Over Productivity During a PandemicThis week we welcome back guest writer Christen Morgan to talk about why keeping your mental health as a priority is important in this time of COVID-19.

When you’re stressed about something, how do you react? Do you: a) face the stressor head on, determine the cause of this stress and try to relieve it through mindful or various other therapeutic measures; or do you, b) avoid the stressor completely, simply pretend as though it does not exist and instead justify your ignorance by filling your calendar with an overload of tasks that give you the false sense that, “you’re doing just fine sweetie?” I for one fall right into the latter category. I do try my best to make it to category A at some point, but my default is undoubtedly category B. In fact, I’m doing it right now. This morning I learned some news that wasn’t so great, so I filled my day with the most random tasks to avoid facing the stressor head on. I went and bought a new rug for my bedroom because the rug I had for the past two years for some reason just didn’t work anymore and then I got to work cleaning my front porch. A porch that I never use because of my fear of bugs, but it just had to be cleaned today. However, here I am hesitantly venturing into category A and writing this post. Slowing down to face our stressors head on is never fun. But it’s necessary. Where do you land on this spectrum?

As a global community, we are collectively facing a very real, very unpredictable, and very dangerous stressor in the form of a virus (COVID-19). This virus has caused severe damage to human life and is justifiably difficult to face head on. Therefore, many people (myself included) have filled their days with everything from exercise classes, to planting a new indoor garden to baking sourdough bread to avoid what’s going on around us. Now, I’m not saying that these are not excellent methods of self-care, but when was the last time you checked in on how you’re feeling about the state of the world? Being productive but avoiding a mental check-in cancels the self-care value of your chosen activity.

Furthermore, recognizing that you may not be ok far exceeds the fleeting joy procured from your own baked slice of banana bread. We can’t continue using “productivity” as an excuse to ignore how we’re really feeling. Although prioritizing our mental health may be difficult, we need to start putting it to the forefront. Not sure how to begin? Here are two ways to get started.

1. Ask Yourself How You’re Feeling

Stop what you’re doing right now. No seriously, stop what you’re doing for a minute, even if it’s just reading this post and ask yourself, “how do I feel?” Are you happy? Are you angry? Are you sad? Are you anxious? Or maybe you’re just scared. Whatever it is that you’re experiencing, try to bring that to the forefront of your mind. It may not even be an emotion, but perhaps you’re experiencing pain or discomfort in some part of your body. Use this time to simply identify how or what you’re feeling. I know this practice may be a bit awkward or difficult at first. If you need help easing into it try implementing this question into a meditation. Don’t try to fix the feeling or find a solution in this moment, just simply identify it. If you have a journal, I recommend recording your findings. This will be especially helpful for step two. Try to do this mental check in if you can, once a day. However, I do know the days can get away from us, so at least aim for once a week.

2. Respond to Your Needs

The next step is to respond to your needs. Now is the time to go a step beyond identification and, if you can, try to determine what it is that you need to address your emotions or physical feelings. Feel free to refer to your journal or if you made any notes during your assessment in step 1, take a look to ensure you’re addressing everything. If your assessment was that you’re feeling happy, then that’s awesome, continue doing whatever healthy activities have helped you to maintain this mindset. If you’re sad or angry it may be beneficial to ask yourself some follow up questions. Why are you sad or angry? Determining the source of this pain is not easy, but if you can get there, it may mean responding in therapeutic ways such as: talking to friends and family, scheduling a therapy session or even exercising to expel rage or build serotonin. These may not be a quick fix to how you’re feeling, but addressing these issues can be life-saving. If you’re anxious or fearful, these feelings could possibly be attributed to the scary times we are living in. It may also be beneficial to address the root of these emotions. If you find that they increase after watching the news or even scrolling social media, it may be beneficial to limit this content. These are also emotions that can be properly addressed and mitigated through therapy. Feel free to explore sliding scale therapists or even deals on meditative apps that can be essential during this financially strained time.

Finally, remember that responding may mean doing absolutely nothing at all. The point of addressing your feelings is to face them head on as opposed to ignoring them with busy work. Responding appropriately may simply mean sitting on your couch and doing nothing, watching mindless TV, or even crying to release the stress within you. Remember, it’s ok to acknowledge that you may not be ok and doing nothing can sometimes be ok too.

Thinking of you all.


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About Christen Morgan

Christen Morgan graduated magna cum laude from the University of Tampa where she received her B.S. in Criminology. She earned her J.D. from Emory Law School where she competed and served as an executive board member for the Emory Law Moot Court Society. Christen also served as a student representative for LexisNexis and also as a mentor for several 1L students offering them advice and a variety of resources to help them through their law school journey.

Christen previously practiced as a Foreclosure Attorney for a Real Estate law firm but has since then transitioned into a Real Estate Specialist role at a wireless infrastructure company.

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