How do I improve my Coronavirus productivity?
April 24, 2020 9:25 PM   Subscribe

I've always had problems with productivity and concentration but with the lockdown things have fallen off a cliff.

Everyone on my social media seems to be enjoying themselves baking bread while doing yoga, making great art and simultaneously teaching themselves French and Python programming at the same time.

I, by contrast, have various half-abandoned Coursera courses. I lie awake at night, worrying about my finances and whether I and my family will get infected (I live with an essential worker). I never get enough sleep and seem to be perpetually behind on things I have to do.

I spend too much time checking the news for the latest figures on the number of cases/deaths. I also spend too much time on a local forum which has many useful Coronavirus news/tips like how to get a online grocery delivery slot but is also unfortunately modded by folks who hold diametrically opposite political views to mine and delete any posts by people who speak out. I have had to use LeechBlock on the forum in question and hope that I can stick to it instead of agitating myself by fruitlessly arguing with these people despite the temptation.

I have tried to analyze why I have fallen off the cliff. I live with an essential worker who is too busy to do any housework and another family member with serious health issues so the burden of keeping the home clean has always fallen on me. Besides laundry and cleaning, I am also now cooking all my meals because of the lockdown. Pre-virus, I would eat out a few times a week, giving myself a break from the cooking and washing up. Now, not only am I doing more cooking, I also need more groceries just as groceries have become harder and more expensive to acquire.

Like everyone else, I am struggling to get online grocery slots and a lot of staples are out of stock because everyone is at home cooking. Very basic stuff like bread flour, pasta and canned sardines. I look at recipes that require 5 ingredients and despair because going out to buy things now require major planning due to virus-related restrictions and some things just cannot be found anywhere except for specialty grocers that charge an arm and a leg for premium, organic versions. I am running out of specific pharmacy items which can be delivered but the delivery charges are high. The minimum sum required for free delivery is an absurd amount.

I haven't exercised for a long time. I have trouble grinding through the tedious household chores I have to do. There are times when it's late at night and I still have dinner dishes in the sink and undone laundry. Which ends up with my going to bed at 2 am and getting up 9am after having vivid nightmares.

I need to acquire discipline and accountability but I don't know how. I've tried using the app Forest as suggested by another Mefite but it's not enough. I feel what I really need is someone to sit with me while I fold laundry but that is not possible. My closest friend is busy working from home and has no time to be there for me virtually. I was part of an online co-working group in the past but I was required to cheer the others on and keep track of their goals which I found draining since I have so little energy to begin with.

I want to get my household chores done, go to bed and get up on time, stop wasting time online, exercise everyday with Youtube workouts and get boring, unpleasant work done. But how?

P.S. I am typing this with a huge pile of laundry in my room.
posted by whitelotus to Work & Money (27 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Forgot to say: A lot of people are solving the food issue by having their meals delivered under lockdown but I can't afford it. I also feel it's safer and healthier to to do my own cooking.
posted by whitelotus at 9:42 PM on April 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

there's a meme that answers your question
posted by Jacqueline at 10:12 PM on April 24, 2020 [43 favorites]

Give yourself at least a week off in which you don't even try to be "productive" and instead sleep a ton and do fun things only during your waking hours. Once you are thoroughly rested you will have way more energy and motivation to get things done.

I seriously did nothing for a couple of weeks, slept 12-16 hours/day and only watched TV and played games while awake, and then one day I just felt like doing stuff again and accomplished a bunch of stuff that I'd been putting off for months even before this all started.

This is a very stressful time and you need to REST.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:15 PM on April 24, 2020 [38 favorites]

Best answer: In my circles, most of the people bragging about how they're using this time to become semi-professional pastry chefs while doing yoga, losing 20 pounds and speaking fluent French are (a) trying to kickstart a career as a social media influencer (b) blockchain CEOs (c) incredibly devoid of empathy (d) going on crying jags right after they post a filtered photo of their sourdough loaf (e) all of the above. But I digress.

From what you are saying here, you sound incredibly accountable. You are supporting a household with an essential worker, and a family member with serious health issues. You are managing to procure ingredients, plan meals and cook meals in an environment where doing all of those things has become 1000x more complicated. You are managing the (heavy) mental load of calculating which household tasks are urgent and which can wait. You are dealing with the whiplash of incredible uncertainty each and every day.

Are the people in your household fed? Do they have a safe place where they can go to sleep? Do they live in an emotionally safe home? Is this because of the hard work you are doing? You sounds like you are caring SO MUCH for the people in your life, in which case you are doing amazing.

I can't give you advice on how to accomplish more; from reading this, you need to give *me* advice. I agree with Jacqueline above, if there is any way for you to do *less*, you may find yourself re-energized. Best of luck to you; we're rooting for you!
posted by rogerroger at 11:30 PM on April 24, 2020 [112 favorites]

Dear whitelotus I feel for you very much. I hope you can muster some compassion for yourself and give yourself a much deserved break. In your question you stated that you had “tried to analyse why you’ve fallen off the cliff”. You did analyse why, producing a very clear and cogent list containing a multitude of stellar reasons why you might not be functioning at your best. It is a good analysis! I imagine that most of us are locked in little private hells at the moment, with some shared frustrations and some particular to our individual situations. Everything you are going through is very hard. It doesn’t make it less hard for you because other people are suffering also. It is OK to not be at your most productive right now. It is normal to not be productive. Your needs are not being met. You are not a machine.

Still, you would like to be getting things done. Perhaps you could be very kind to yourself and start by giving due recognition to all things that you are getting done, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Your workload has increased! Come from a space of celebrating yourself and giving due praise for what you are already achieving despite where we are now. Start low. You say you are surrounded by laundry. That either means that you have washed some clothes, in which case, well done you! or you have been wearing clean clothes every day in order to generate a load of dirty laundry in which case, well done you! (round here, getting dressed each day in a cleanish outfit counts as an achievement).
You sound very tired. I don’t think it is discipline or accountability that you are lacking, really. You are overstretched. Perhaps, based on your post you are rather lacking fun, light, freedom, convenience, hope, peace, money, time, energy ...
How to go on? I suggest, since you mentioned that exercise has fallen by the wayside, that (if you are allowed our where you are) you go out for a gentle walk. And if not allowed out, some gentle stretching inside. Movement is what allows me to go on.
Social media is not an accurate gauge of what people are up to, I’m sure you know this.
Take a deep breath. This is a terrible year. You are still swimming. Good for you. Give yourself grace.
posted by Diomedea at 11:52 PM on April 24, 2020 [8 favorites]

I have tried to analyze why I have fallen off the cliff. I live with an essential worker who is too busy to do any housework and another family member with serious health issues so the burden of keeping the home clean has always fallen on me. Besides laundry and cleaning, I am also now cooking all my meals because of the lockdown.

Are you familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

'We can’t worry about higher-level needs when we’ve got physiological and safety needs that need to be addressed."

We are in the middle of a global pandemic, the likes of which have not been experienced on this scale for over 100 years. The consequences to human life have been, and continue to be, disastrous. No one has any idea how long this situation is going to last. Thanks to the internet, we can be informed 24/7 about the horrors the virus has wrought in other countries around the world and then worry about how it is going to affect us and our loved ones in whatever country we live in. I cannot stress to you enough how normal it is that you are expending all your available energy on surviving and helping your household members survive by cooking and keeping the house clean to a minimum, and that you don't have extra energy to spend on things like Coursera or yoga or whatever.

Be kind to yourself. You are doing the best you can in difficult circumstances.

I feel what I really need is someone to sit with me while I fold laundry but that is not possible.

When I have unpleasant chores I need to do I listen to a podcast with a format that is essentially a friendly conversation. Personally I like to listen to either Answer Me This! or No Such Thing As A Fish. Those are only suggestions; you might like other ones. But I find it helpful and soothing to have those friendly, calm voices talking about things that are NOT coronavirus. I don't know why, but when I listen to these podcasts I feel like someone else is there with me while I am doing whatever chore it is I hate doing.

It has also helped me to stop reading so much about coronavirus. I still listen to the daily update from our provincial health officer and health minister, but that's about it.

I mean, take my advice with a grain of salt because I've got a virtual stack of unmarked student essays and my house isn't very clean or tidy. I play a lot of Wordscapes, watch a lot of Netflix, and worry and stare into space a lot. But I'm trying to be kind to myself because damn, these are some strange times. Please, please cut yourself some slack.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:53 PM on April 24, 2020 [35 favorites]

Very simply, you have more on your plate than you have capacity to do. A thoughtless manager would give you a speech about giving 120% and work you until you burned out. Unfortunately you are your manager and you appear to have given that speech and done exactly that.

There’s a lot of advice out there about dealing with burnout. I won’t repeat it here.

In the long run you’re going to have to reduce your workload. Food is an obvious place — if you’re looking for bread flour you’re spending a lot more time on food than you need to be; also recipes with five ingredients are, in your current circumstance, an extravagance. There is also probably a lot of slack in laundry if you fine tune your standards about when things actually need to be laundered.

But first you’ll need to deal with the burnout. Until that’s done all the optimization in the world won’t help.

P.S. If you’re going to pay attention to social media (which you probably shouldn’t) please do remember the self-selection going on. The many many people dealing with issues like yours are not spending time posting about it. The only people posting are those who don’t have the kind of load you do.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:57 AM on April 25, 2020 [18 favorites]

One of the most popular posts right now on Psychology Today seems to echo some of what you write and offers some advice that can maybe be adapted to your situation: Why Am I Stressed and Anxious All the Time?

My own suggestions are somewhat US-centric, but they are related to hacks that might help with managing some of your time and redirecting some of your online energy. There are a lot of pantry staples (e.g. pasta, sardines, flour) that are available online from places like Walmart, Target, and Kroger, which also offer a range of pharmacy/health products, and the amount required to get free shipping may be easier to reach when getting more items. And maybe disposable plates etc are worth the expense right now to help reduce the amount of dishes.

I started exploring the option of online ordering after a community forum caused me a lot of stress with its "helpful" ideas about how to get basic household supplies, so I stopped visiting the forum and instead just started googling for things from reputable sellers and have often ended up finding better deals by buying in bulk than I had ever gotten in a grocery store. It can take some time and searching around to find things, but it may be a way to help improve your overall productivity.

As to exercise, I try to remind myself about what my tai chi instructor said about their experience as a cross-country runner, and how their coach said the most important part of going on a run is taking the first step.
posted by katra at 1:16 AM on April 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Hey there whitelotus - the advice above is great and I don't have much to add but if you need someone to sit with you while you fold laundry I'd be happy to drop by via Skype or such for an hour or so? I'm not a trained counsellor but I'm a good listener. Memail if that would be useful. Hang in there!
posted by freya_lamb at 2:17 AM on April 25, 2020 [12 favorites]

Stop following the news. I found it immensely helpful to stop watching the news. I look at the headlines in a few trusted sources (The Guardian, NYT, BBC, CNN) but I've stopped doing any kind of deep delve into the news and I deliberately avoid the TV news.

The difference this has made to my mental well-being is enormous. I know all I can do right now is stay at home and not mix with other people. Nothing's changed there so watching TV news reports of the horror stories inside the ICU isn't something that's going to help me.

This in turn has helped my motivation. I tend to procrastinate (which is why I'm on here rather than weeding my veg bed) but breaking things into manageable slots works for me. Also podcasts, particularly 'chatty' ones like My Favorite Murder or Office Ladies, makes me feel as if I have friends stopping by.
posted by essexjan at 3:24 AM on April 25, 2020 [8 favorites]

I live with an essential worker who is too busy to do any housework and another family member with serious health issues so the burden of keeping the home clean has always fallen on me. Besides laundry and cleaning, I am also now cooking all my meals because of the lockdown.

....This sounds like productivity to me, honestly. Being the sole person to keep the house together takes a lot of work.

Take a closer look at the people who are baking bread and doing yoga and all that. Look in the background. Do they have other people in the house to do the laundry and stuff like that? I bet they do, and that while they're doing yoga there's someone else in the house that's worrying about making dinner or wiping the kids' asses or taking care of the dumb mundane shit that has to be taken care of.

In your case, you don't have anyone else to do that, so you're doing it. That is still productivity.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:41 AM on April 25, 2020 [8 favorites]

It’s ok to go to sleep even if there is a pile of laundry to fold or dirty dishes in the sink. It happens, nobody will die. So give yourself a break. Get the sleep you need, which seems to be more, not less, than normal for a a lot of people I talk to. Everything else is either easier or harder because you are(n’t) sleep deprived. And your immune system is more or less effective for the same reason.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:46 AM on April 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

You are doing so much. Oh my God, you are doing so much. You are extremely productive. You are supporting an entire household, at a time when even the basic tasks required are extremely difficult (eg. finding grocery slots, having to cook every meal instead of being able to eat out etc).

And you're being that productive despite the fact that you're under massive stress, which lessens our ability to do anything.

For context: I am one of those people who - so far at least - is getting in a little yoga and Spanish and all that shit (and not, contrary to the suggestions above, sobbing over my Instagram account). But I am insanely fortunate. I live alone. I have a supermarket a 10 minute walk away, and I go there once a week and get my groceries. I am still employed full time and have no distractions at home while I work. In fact, not having a 2.5 hour daily commute has increased my spoons for all the recreational stuff. I am extremely fortunate. And even with all those advantages, my clean laundry has been hanging on airers for a week or so because I can't be bothered to put it away, and my kitchen is currently a tip until I can be arsed to get up and clean it rather than being on MeFi, and so on. But there's no one else around to see it, so no shame.

Our two situations are not the same. You simply cannot compare them, and if you're trying to compare yourself with all those other folk you see online, it's just nonsense - their situation will be different from yours in a million ways that enables them to do this shit. And frankly, this stuff is not productivity. Keeping your family alive, supporting a key worker and a person with health issues is productivity.

You sound extremely productive, and if you're not able to do everything, that's because the list of things you have to do is more than one person can handle, especially when stressed. Please be kind to yourself. You rock. Learning macrame can wait.
posted by penguin pie at 4:51 AM on April 25, 2020 [7 favorites]

You sound like you feel overwhelmed. I've been there. I'm also struggling with procrastination and distraction on many days and feeling guilty and anxious. I think this is very, very normal.

A while ago Johnny Wallflower posted something to the blue that contained a mantra I really liked: "Right now, it's like this." Such economy of language to express two things -- right now it's like this, it won't go on forever, we don't have to endure forever, we just have to endure right now -- and right now it's like this -- by bringing our minds to the present and acknowledging what's here without trying to change it, it becomes somehow easier to endure.

Right now, you feel anxious and tired. Right now, there is a lot of housework to do, more than usual even, and you don't have a lot of help. It's okay that it's hard. It's okay that nothing's perfect. It won't be forever.
posted by eirias at 4:56 AM on April 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

You are not alone. I think many are in a sort or paralysis right now. Millions of us have dirty dishes and haven't exercised in a while. I don't feel one smidge of guilt for not using my time "productively". I read a lot about the virus too and after a couple weeks of nonstop virus reading, I had to break it up and read something else. Try not to put a label on your behavior that you're unproductive or not using your time wisely. Most of us are stressed or overwhelmed.

If you need to get some things done around the house when you're not in the mood. Here are my suggestions:

1. Block out your day. Think about the time when you have the most energy and use that time to clean.

2. Set timers. It usually takes five minutes to unload and reload a dishwasher. Set another one for ten or fifteen minutes and see how much laundry you can fold and hang (a lot).

2. Audiobooks and podcasts can keep you company while you do chores.

3. Make simple meals. We repeat our dinners and many of them involve frozen vegetables (pork chop, baked potato with butter and sour (or steamed rice), mixed veg. Done) One pot or one sheet pan dinners are great when you have no desire to cook.
posted by loveandhappiness at 5:13 AM on April 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

Can the family member help fold clean laundry? Or do any food prep stuff while sitting, like chopping?

I agree that you need to give yourself much more credit.

I live alone. But I had a housecleaner twice a week who insisted on also doing my laundry. (I am American but don’t live there.) I also used to get delivery or dine out several times a week. Now I order delivery about once a week and get everything grocery and otherwise delivered. And I don’t understand where all this laundry comes from because I feel I wear the same days and days in a row!

It is ok to get delivery food. There are many posts about how the virus does not live on cooked food. Get pizza once a week. It will ease your burden. It might cost a little more in money but it will save you time and stress. That is something worth paying for. Also it’s ok to get premodern bread. Please. You need to take care of yourself and that might look like spending money unnecessarily but your overall well-being needs to relax sometimes. That is necessary.

Best to you.
posted by affectionateborg at 5:46 AM on April 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Martin Molin, musician and builder of the Marble Machine X, shares some recent thoughts that might be of use to you.
posted by flabdablet at 6:22 AM on April 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

I clicked on this because quarantine has also increased my struggles with productivity and focus. You are doing a LOT and your situation is more stressful than mine.

Cold Turkey Blocker helps when I'm having trouble with the internet.

The other night I ordered enough delivery food for 2 meals and felt like that gave me the breathing room to get the dishes under control. I've also been prepping 4 or more breakfasts at once and that helps. This morning I reheated a frozen home-made muffin and so the only dirty dishes (from breakfast) are my tea mug, a knife and a saucer.

I've been wearing some things 2-3 times before washing. I *could* be putting some stuff in the sun to kill off stinky bacteria but haven't yet. A vodka/water solution can be used like Febreeze to freshen up stinky pits (of clothing, haven't tried this on own armpits).

I've also been wanting to find someone to hang out with on skype or whatever while I get some stuff done. When I join someone else's group social skype/zoom session (not work) I feel okay about working on stuff while others talk, and it helps me. I'd be happy to skype with you as well.
posted by bunderful at 6:25 AM on April 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

I also think you are being too hard on yourself. I'm someone who is to some extent being "productive" in the way you're talking about. But I don't have anyone to take care of, I'm only working part time, my partner has been laid off so he's taking on more of the household stuff than he usually does, and no one in my close family is seriously at risk so I'm not carrying that stress day to day. Also... like, okay I made bread yesterday but also I have a sink full of dirty dishes right now.

That said, I wonder if the UFYH approach might be good for you right now? It focuses on little bursts of focused attention on chores or other tasks, followed by a rest. ie set a timer for 20 minutes, run around cleaning everything that you can get done in 20 minutes, and then rest for 10 minutes. Repeat if desired. I find that if I'm feeling overwhelmed by stuff like dishes it can be a help.

I'm also a huge fan of listening to podcasts to get myself over the hump of getting started on household cleaning.

But really. Go easy on yourself. This is hard, and everyone is going to get through it in different ways.
posted by geegollygosh at 6:35 AM on April 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

I heartily agree with everyone saying you are doing a LOT right now. Because what you're doing is mostly "housework," it's often not valued to the same extent as outside-the-house work, but it's 1000% essential at the best of times, and is especially challenging now for all the reasons you discuss.

Two strategies I learned to stay productive when it feels like I'm being asked to give more than I've got:
[ ] checkyboxes
[ ] Pomodoro timer

I make checkyboxes for EVERYTHING. Call the credit card company to dispute a charge. Put laundry in washer and turn it on. Do dishes. Take laundry out of washer. Hang up laundry. Etc etc etc. And as you go through the day, keep the checkybox list with you or in an easy location (phone, index card, etc) and strike things off your list. I put a Nike swooosh through the checkybox, other people cross the entire item off, I have one friend who says he colors in the checkybox with glee "like when you are 100% right you are bubbling in the right answer on a test." Whatever method you use, it'll give you a delicious dopamine hit to see the checkyboxes getting addressed. I prefer hard copy checkyboxes because you get to keep a record/running list for accountability, but phone is fine too. Writing them down also helps to free up your working memory from having to hold on to the running list -- a lot of mental fatigue comes from working memory being in overdrive.

Pomodoro is a slightly different tool where you set a timer for an interval (~20-25 minutes) and then use that time to focus on a task. When the timer goes off, there's a built-in break (you can set this for 5-10 minutes) and then the timer starts again. Most pomodoros also incorporate a long break after a few shorter rounds. It's highly customizable and good for tasks that need clear sustained focus.

You could get recursive with these two, like dedicate a pomodoro to make a checkybox list, and then include "complete two pomodoros" (e.g.) as one item on your checkybox list. Whatever strategy you choose, see if you can build in a couple checkyboxes or pomodoros for things you enjoy, like "Listen to X podcast."
posted by basalganglia at 6:37 AM on April 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

First, I am a big believer in what I call Laundry Party: dump all the clean laundry on the couch and sort and fold while I watch Netflix. That doesn't solve your anxiety about, oh, EVERYTHING ELSE, but it's the kind of thing I do to do the things I gotta do and also have some enjoyment at the same time.

The very words "global pandemic" and "quarantine" have made everything we do seem monumental, and yet here we are, still needing to do chores and stay moving. I have some friends who are reporting burnout and they are the ones who jumped to start daily Zoom sessions, start big projects, start sourdoughs (I recently let mine die, but I was never a bread baker anyway - though I do get stress baking is a thing for some). Being busy is a survival technique, but the on-edge feeling never goes away because there is a sense of expectancy about it if one is doing all this activity as a way to pass the time. I would caution against looking at what others are doing as a benchmark for yourself and think about how you can be kinder to yourself. You mentioned exercise; that would be an awesome reason to put the dishes on hold and take some time for your mental and physical well-being. All this doing and action is taking its toll and keeping you on the hamster wheel of worry and survival.

I'm guilty of scrolling twitter for HOURS, not letting go of the need to see what's coming next. It's not quite automatic, but it takes a big effort to stop. What's helped me is setting a time limit for scrolling. I do it in the morning for an hour and I stop. On weekends (now meaningless for me but I stick to form) I try to stay offline as much as possible; Sundays are strict no-internet days. It helps to see when I get back to twitter on Monday that it's still there, doing what it always did *without me.*

Finally, a story: the week before we went into self isolation my husband and I put our house on the market. We started out keeping the house immaculate for showings despite not actually wanting to have anyone walk through. It was a huge strain to pretend that things were normal and that yes, we were going to sell and move in this uncertain climate, and a relief when our state ruled against showings and open houses. We've moved much of the clutter of living back to its original state and suspended our listing so that we can just live again in our own, un-staged space. It's gonna be a pain in the ass to re-clean and re-stage, but holding ourselves to a normal-world standard right now was too stressful. Take care of YOU first: eat well, get exercise, drink more water, breathe. None of the other stuff will matter if you are not well.

Best wishes to you.
posted by Otter_Handler at 6:49 AM on April 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

Seconding the podcast suggestion above. Even before the pandemic, I would not have gotten any of my chores done if I didn't listen to podcasts while I was doing them.

If you happen to be in the US, I can recommend ordering pantry staples from Vitacost. They have toilet paper in stock(!!)

As long as everyone at home is getting their basic needs met, I think you should focus on self-care right now. Maybe you shift the energy you're pouring into the news/forums and binge a dumb television show, or play a video game, or whatever mindless, pleasant activity appeals to you right now.

It's really hard to be productive and centered when you're stressed out. The unwashed dishes are fine. Your exercise routine will come back when you're ready for it.
posted by toastedcheese at 6:53 AM on April 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm a member of a couple of facebook groups that address this. I follow the Flylady system. UFYH is similar I think. In these groups, we do stuff like post a call every 15 min and say what we are doing then check back for the next call. So it's basically a timer but with a mildly social component. Message me if you're interested in knowing which groups.

When I am having a draggy day I sometimes just switch my goal to setting myself up for a great tomorrow. Like, I have accepted that this day isn't going to be terrific. But I can make sure that tomorrow is good. I can make sure there is clean laundry for tomorrow. I can take a shower. I can figure out what I'm going to eat tomorrow. Having it all lined up lets me roll out of bed the next day and hit the ground running.

I know the feeling you are describing SO WELL. But you know, it's totally possible to manage and you are going to teach yourself some great tricks. Sometimes you just need to put your blinders on and just do one task. Message me if you need a cheerleader!
posted by selfmedicating at 7:34 AM on April 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Others have said this, but here's a living example of the dissonance between social media and real life. Since the lockdown started here, we have a couple friends on the other side of town, who are in turn good friends with their next door neighbors - their two sets of kids (our friends have one, their neighbors have two) get along well and are the same age, the parents are similarly aged and get along well, etc. So they decided to quarantine "together" - they both still live in their respective houses, but they temporarily took out the fence between their yards, they rotate child care among each adult one day a week, etc. They're basically living as one family unit.

On Instagram, it looks for all to see like they're having a ball - the kids play together, the dads built them a treehouse, and the moms do other awesome fun-looking projects with the kids, and at the end of every day there's at least one shot of them all having a glass of wine together or something. it looks lovely, and charming, and vastly different from my wife and I's experience (ours isn't bad, we're just boring childless people who watch a lot of TV and do a puzzle every now and again).

We had a zoom happy hour with our friends last night, and the not doing super great. She's super stressed because of her job, her husband just had to take a 20% pay cut, watching their kid is a handful in normal times and now one kid has become three, and she doesn't really have time to breathe, much less live the wonderful life she's presenting on instagram. She's getting less sleep, not eating as well as normal (they got Taco Bell delivered last night, and these are people who routinely can and pickle and grow their own food), and just sounds...exhausted.

So please, don't beat yourself up because you see people "living their best lives" (a singularly annoying phrase) or whatever on social media, or otherwise broadening their cultural horizons in a way you can't right now . I'd bet a lot of social media people are in my friend's boat and are not as amazing as they're presenting. You are living life the way you know how to live it, and that's enough for now.

Be kind to yourself. As others have said, take a minute to acknowledge what you did do in a day instead of stressing about what you didn't - start there and build from that. This may sound overly simplistic, but the best way to stop wasting time online is...don't be online. From the sounds of your interactions with your local forum, you know that script by heart now - you know the arc of every interaction you'll have, and you know that arc ends with you being stressed out and unhappy. So don't interact. Take a break from it.

There are probably other, more neutral ways to find out how to get a grocery delivery slot in your area, if you need them. Those forum arguments will rage whether or not you participate, so why feed the fire? Take the baby step of not looking at the forum for a day, and see what happens. During that day, fold your laundry if you can, but if not, that's OK too!

Basically, give yourself permission to live however you need to right now, because there's no wrong way to get through all this. Hang in there.
posted by pdb at 9:26 AM on April 25, 2020 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for the replies. Deep down I do envy these people who are able to dive deep into self-improvement projects. Thinking about the people I've seen bragging, they are mostly young, single, male and do not have any family responsibilities such as young children, elderly parents and sick family members. They are also at least middle-class and can afford the luxury of working from home and getting meals delivered from fancy French restaurants. I would dearly love to subscribe to the local CSA and have a weekly organic vegetable/fruit box delivered every week but it is just too expensive for working class families like mine.

So I guess this is an age, gender and class issue. Women and working class folks are having a really hard time in this crisis. There is no good answer for this but I will have to soldier on. I just hope the number of cases fall soon and the lockdown is lifted because it will ease the burden on the grocery chain at least as more people go back to work.
posted by whitelotus at 8:24 PM on April 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

So I guess this is an age, gender and class issue. Women and working class folks are having a really hard time in this crisis. There is no good answer for this but I will have to soldier on.

Bingo - and a hug, and a reminder that this is productivity, and it is also a form of creativity that the world tends to undervalue.

Look at it like this - you say that you wish you could have meals delivered from fancy French restaurants. The thing is, about 75% of the meals you can find in those restaurants were born a couple hundred years ago when French peasant women were looking at what was left over in their gardens after pests ate through things and thought, " can I stretch this to feed the whole family?" They used their creativity to solve a mundane problem, and it just worked well. Lots of times, the stuff we value today had their origins in the actions of women doing what you're doing right now - trying to take care of their families in a time of very limited resources.

That is noble work. The fact that the rest of the world doesn't acknowledge that is their problem. You still rock at it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:48 AM on April 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like you're doing a lot of hard work, and keeping it together, which is commendable. Stuff on social media is context-free, which makes it quite close to fiction, in my opinion anyway.

I've found doing mindfulness mediation can spare me from comparison with my imagination of how I could be. This has helped me (a) feel better about not doing what other people seem to be doing, but also (b) do more of the things I would like to do, as the comparison produces a sense of guilt which is itself a bit debilitating.

This still needs about 15 minutes a day on your own in a quiet place (ideally after waking or before sleeping), so it's not always easy. If you are interested there is plenty of good material online. This book is what helped me.
posted by larkery at 2:34 AM on April 29, 2020

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