Combatting Productivity Shame and Social Comparison During Quarantine
Published: July 7, 2020
Brittany’s become a sourdough expert, and Ben’s become a yogi. Sarah’s lost weight, and Sam tackled a beautiful backyard remodel project. Erin turned her home into a greenhouse, and Elliot’s TikTok dances with his kids go viral every week. So … what have you accomplished?
Look, there’s a reason I and other mental health experts have been urging everyone to limit the use of social media during this time. Sure, news overload can have negative consequences on our health and well-being, but so can social comparison and productivity shame – the feeling of incompetency and worthlessness when personal goals aren’t made or met.
Maybe it’s your friend’s latest Instagram story highlighting her perfect gluten-free vegan chocolate chip muffins. Or maybe it’s a meme poking fun at the “quarantine 15” when you’re fully aware you’ve been moving less and eating more. It all adds up and can cause unnecessary feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.
Reminders to help you cope
There’s nothing wrong with productivity and showcasing it on social media during quarantine. It becomes a problem when it turns into a higher priority than our mental health. Whether you’re guilty of trying to do or share too much, or you feel like you should be doing more, here are some important reminders to help you cope with the social comparison that many people are currently struggling with.
Everyone responds to stress differently
Some people are simply wired differently. During times of stress, some people need to feel accomplished to feel OK. It gives them a sense of control when everything else feels out of control. These are the achievers – the doers – and the competitive-natured individuals who thrive on productivity.
Others, though, may feel overwhelmed by new challenges and endeavors when the situation they’re in feels challenging enough. These people like routine and direction. They thrive on dependability and their ability to organize chaos. They also have a keen sense of priority and always seem to know exactly where they need to devote the bulk of their energy.
While there are more than two types of people, the point is this: Quarantine is stressful. And different people are handling it differently. There’s no right way to respond to the uncertainty surrounding us. But understanding your needs and how you achieve mental clarity and well-being are important.
What you see isn’t always reality
We all know that people tend to share things that portray them in the best light possible. We don’t always see their flops and fails. In fact, many people tend to post aspects and characteristics of their ideal selves – images of who they want to be or feel they should be. So if you’re sitting there, scrolling a Facebook friend’s timeline, subconsciously thinking “Man, I wish I had that life,” it could be likely that your friend wishes the same.
Take what you see – especially during quarantine – with a grain of salt. And remember: Everyone is coping differently.
You can’t be everything
This one is geared toward the achievers. As you may already be aware, there’s a fine line between doing and overdoing. And the added pressure on social media to make the most out of quarantine has a lot of doers overdoing it. When you try to take on too many projects at once, it can backfire, leaving you feeling stressed, irritable and oftentimes defeated.
Everyone should be focused on two things right now: staying healthy and remaining calm. That’s it! But if you must create distraction or are feeling creative, limit your projects to one at a time. Multitasking is harder on your brain that you think, and frankly, no one is good at it.
Routine is important
While you might consider your daily 7 a.m. walk and the oatmeal you eat every morning boring (especially compared to all those acai bowl and #avotoast photos on social media), it’s routine. And that’s a good thing!
Routines – no matter how simple they may seem – provide a sense of comfort and normalcy for many people. Without that, you may feel lost, wondering what you should be doing or if you should be doing more during the day. Again, know what you need to feel OK, and be grateful you have the option to make it routine.
How to reframe your mindset
When it comes to productivity, think of it this way: It’s not about what you haven’t done or didn’t do. It’s about what you get to do.
Gratitude is a powerful tool that opens our minds and shifts our focus. It can make us happier and more content, which may lessen our desire to compare, compete or achieve.
Whether you wake up tomorrow and feel inspired to dig a pool or decide to binge watch your favorite show, you’re alive. You get to make that choice. And that’s certainly something to be grateful for.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by anxiety and stress, call the Methodist Emotional Support Line to speak with a licensed professional counselor from the Methodist Hospital Community Counseling Program. The free, confidential service can be accessed by dialing (402) 815-8255 (TALK) and is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Counselors can help by answering questions, addressing concerns, scheduling counseling appointments for additional care and providing referrals to community resources.