Why it's okay to have off days during Covid-19

If you’re anything like me, the reality of COVID-19 has well and truly hit. We are in the midst of a scary time, essential workers are under a tonne of pressure and on top of that we have lost the freedom to do what we want with our leisure time.

Although we are all different and we all respond to situations differently, there are some similar themes that seem to be coming up for people in response to our new situation.

Grieving the loss of normalcy

With the strict new legislation around leaving the house (a great thing that will save lives), it’s okay if you’re feeling a bit down about the loss of your normal routine and the things you can no longer do, this doesn’t make you selfish. Feeling upset about losing your normal activities and your sense of safety has been referred to as anticipatory grief. Which is having a fearful feeling for what might be to come and it's a normal and understandable response to a challenging situation.

You may find it helpful to think about what you’re going to do when this is over. I keep a list in my phone where I write down all the things I would like to do when it's possible again and this helps me to feel hopeful about the future. When I start to think about how I can’t do something, I remind myself that I can’t do it YET and add it to the list.

Feeling like you should be productive all the time

On top of the pressures that we are already feeling, many of us are bombarded with people (and the voice in our head) telling us that we should be learning something new or creating something in our time at home and being productive. In reality it's okay if you don’t feel like doing anything productive in your down time. It’s a crazy time and we all need to be as kind to ourselves as we possibly can.

As humans we are great at telling ourselves that we should be doing more and making ourselves feel bad. Our ‘inner critic’ is the voice in our mind that tells us all the things we are doing wrong, we might be thinking things like ‘I’m so selfish because I’m upset about not being able to go out’ or ‘other people are handling this so much better than me’ even ‘I should be doing more’. If you notice that your thoughts are becoming self-critical, try to reframe them by thinking about how you would speak to a friend in this situation. Generally, the response changes to something along the lines of ‘it’s okay to be upset, this is a weird time, you’re doing your best’, try to speak that way to yourself too.

Feeling a bit flat

It’s natural for negative emotions to come up right now, but it's important that we acknowledge them and process them. Research has shown that when we think that we shouldn’t experience negative emotions and feel like we can’t express them we tend to feel them more intensely.

When we are feeling a bit flat self-care becomes extremely important, but it also happens to be the time where we might crave junk food, want to stay in bed all day and avoid responsibilities. The thing is, staying in bed and eating cake for a day or two won’t hurt us, but if we do this for a long period of time we will end up in a pretty bad way. This is where it becomes useful to ask yourself the question “is this behaviour helping me or harming me?” In tough times we need to look after ourselves even when it's less fun in the moment (i.e. working out) because the long-term benefits are worth it.

If you’re experiencing any of these feelings don’t be hard on yourself, just know that we are all fumbling our way through this confusing time together and whatever you’re feeling, it's okay. If you’d like some support see our article Free Online and Telephone Support Services.

Bastian, B., Kuppens, P., Hornsey, M. J., Park, J., Koval, P., & Uchida, Y. (2012). Feeling bad about being sad: The role of social expectancies in amplifying negative mood. Emotion, 12(1), 69.