We're a little crazy, about science!

Day 277: 5 tips to survive the apocalypse

Person in gas mask and full PPE holding a globe

The world is on fire right now. We’re literally living in a real life horror movie. Depending on your proclivity for survival you are stuck almost exclusively inside your home. Yet, everyone on the internet, your PI, and maybe even colleagues seem to tell you the same thing, you can now be more productive! Yes, we are at home almost exclusively and more and more people are suggesting to use this extra time to be more productive. Well fuck that, instead here are my five tips to help you survive all this.

You now probably have your stress level cranked to 11. Maybe you’re not sleeping. Maybe you find yourself making stupid mistakes. You can’t remember anything. You feel like you’re walking through a haze. Welcome, this has been my life for as long as I can remember. Don’t worry, I made it and unlike yesterday’s post I have good news, you can make it through this too! I don’t want to claim to be an expert on anxiety and depression, but if living with it for my entire life doesn’t make me an expert I don’t know what would. Now, let’s go over five simple tips to get you through this mess.

  1. Stop with the bullshit. You will not be more productive, it just doesn’t work that way. I’m here to tell you something, it is okay! Now is not a time to try to work yourself to death and beat yourself up when you can’t perform like you used to. Yes, you are at home more and somehow people are equating that to being more productive. That is a lie from people who are obviously not nearly as affected by this as you or I. Things are hard, we live in constant fear of catching COVID-19 (most of us anyway) and in the US alone, we have almost 100,000 dead. That is literally more people than your brain is capable of imagining. If that isn’t enough to cause a person to break down, I don’t know what is.
  2. You’re not at your best, but that is okay. I keep seeing the same themes on twitter. Why am I making stupid mistakes? Why can’t I remember things like I did? Well, the good news is you’re not crazy. The bad news is you’re anxious and stressed, but rightfully so! Right now, you’re on high alert. Your body is constantly in a flight, freeze, or fight response and that wears heavily on a person. You may even notice you’re having trouble staying awake during the day and no amount of sleep (or lack of sleep) seems to fix the problem. Let me be the first to tell you, that is perfectly normal. I’m sorry things have to be this way, but for now let me refer you to the first and third tips and please take it easy.

  3. Give yourself permission to relax. Everything in your head is telling you to do the work, get the thing done, power through it. Instead of looking for ways to help you stay motivated, allow yourself a chance to recover. I phrased this very particularly, “give yourself permission to relax,” because you literally need to allow yourself to relax. Think about it, when was the last time you did that for yourself? It’s probably been far too long and this is good advice, even when there isn’t a pandemic going on. Take an hour, a day, a week, hell take a few months of extra downtime if you can. Just give yourself a chance to recover.

  4. Be prepared for the after. This is where I say that I’ve got good news… and I’ve got bad news. The good news is this will all end eventually. The bad news is you may be suffering from PTSD afterwards. PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder may sound familiar because it is often associated with veterans coming home from war. However, it can be caused by anything super stressful… like maybe a pandemic? After it ends you may feel fine, you may even feel great! That is good, but there is a chance, especially if all this is really affecting you, that you will one day wake up and everything will no longer be fine. First, deep breath and know that you’re not alone. I went through that same thing when I got out of the military. It may not happen for hours, days, weeks, months, or even years. Then one day it hits you. Just know you’re not alone and there are people who can help. If you want, you can message me and we can talk it out together and I’ll point you to some good resources.

  5. Take the time to reevaluate, maybe find a hobby. This is mostly for the, “I must do something during the pandemic!!!” crowd. There are so few chances in life where you get to press the pause button and look at where you have been and where you are now. Is this where you want to be? Are you happy here (minus the pandemic of course)? There is nothing wrong with reimagining yourself and taking the time to reflect on your choices to make sure they were the best for you. This is also the perfect chance for you to indulge in something you have always wanted to do. Maybe that is painting, woodworking, baking, or video games. Whatever it is, give yourself a chance to try it out and see what you like. You’re never too old to try something new and as a bonus a hobby will help you relax, a common theme in my tips for surviving the apocalypse.

Well that’s it, my five tips. Maybe this is obvious, then again I keep seeing people asking how to be productive during this time and I always have the same answer, take a break! Now I can just point people to this post instead. I know we don’t all have the luxury of taking a break while this is going on, but there are a good portion of us who do, even if it is just for a moment. This is especially true for students, who need to take this time so they don’t burn themselves out. Education is a marathon, not a sprint and while you may be getting flack from your PI, it’s important to remember that things are hard right now. You shouldn’t expect to be operating at full speed. Self care is the best care, allow yourself time to recharge and you’ll thank me when this is all over.

But enough about us, what about you?

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