This Therapist Wants You to Know It's OK If You're Not Productive During the Pandemic

Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be productive and launch a business during a pandemic. I've seen this message floating around social media, and while I understand that people may have more time to focus on themselves and their goals, if someone favors watching their favorite movies all day instead of creating the next "big thing," I'm here for it. The be productive message irks me because the pandemic is affecting everyone differently, and not everyone has the luxury or the privilege to start a passion project without worrying about child care, their next meal, or how they're going to pay their bills.

"I actually don't want to encourage people to be productive. I think that's really troublesome right now," Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC, cofounder of Viva Wellness in Brooklyn, New York, told POPSUGAR. Instead, he recommends having something to devote mental energy to — like taking an online course or learning how to knit — because it creates opportunity for the brain not to worry. No matter what you choose to do, Caraballo said the goal is to find something that requires "real presence," like doing a puzzle, instead of passively engaging with activities.

I actually don't want to encourage people to be productive. I think that's really troublesome right now."

"I think the thing I want people to realize is that it's actually really potentially harmful to our mental health to say that this is now the time to be productive. Because what you're actually doing is you're creating unrealistic expectations for people and you're setting them up to fail. Again, these are not normal circumstances and so why would we be asking more of people when things have gotten harder for most of us? It doesn't make sense," Caraballo said.

Everyday life has become more difficult, people have less money, and less access to social support, he explained, "yet now we want to encourage them to do more? That's really dangerous to our mental health because then there's no way you can win that. And so then, you're just consistently failing." Instead of setting people up for failure, Caraballo suggests creating systems and putting procedures in place to help them succeed, "and part of that is saying, 'Whatever you're doing right now to survive is OK.'"

As it pertains to work, it's OK if your performance has declined. The thought of working from home may sound ideal and cushy, "but the reality is that actually some people are working more and it might be more difficult depending on the circumstances of your life," Caraballo explained. Not to mention, trying to perform well at work while being nervous about going outside and having to think strategically about grocery shopping — "That's not normal," he expressed.

"Whatever you're doing right now to survive is OK."

If you feel like you can do more, do more, Caraballo said. If not, now isn't the time to beat yourself up. Caraballo explained that your nervous system is more than likely in overload due to the 24-hour news coverage about how many people have died from the virus, how widespread the virus is, and how states are fighting with the federal government for supplies. "Those things don't help your mental health; they don't help with motivation; they don't help your mood."

To help you cope and improve your mood, Caraballo said to distract yourself by focusing on activities that occupy your time. You can also try journaling, communicating how you're feeling with your friends and family, and virtual therapy. Remember that whatever you're feeling right now is valid. Take things day by day and treat yourself with grace now more than ever.