Lockdown didn’t make me do it: stuck in limbo between productivity tips and reality TV

Published by Naya Koulocheri on

lockdown mood

There are three categories of people during lockdown: the ones who cherish their free time, the ones who have adapted in the new reality remarkably well and the rest of us.
This second category is very easy to spot. These are the ones who will always look sharp at 9am Zoom meetings and lead the pleb by example.  It is impossible to miss the motivators, sharing lots of tips on how to stay healthy, be fit, and work productively during lockdown. If I see another fitness video showing an amazing bod exercising with a 5kg of fabric softener and a sofa in the background, I swear, I’ll scream. Then, of course, we have the nurturers. They tell us that it’s okay not to feel okay, and as Jameela Jamil said we can eat bread if we feel like it because it is more important to come out of this alive rather than thin. However, most people I know will be stressed about the future financial uncertainty and depressed with a belly that looks like Jello.

In the first category, you’ll find people who have spent their life working and during this lockdown, there is simply no work for them to do. They don’t suffer from I-should-be-working-instead syndrome and they have secured a source of income, so they are ready to rediscover the simple pleasures of life: from baking to becoming a PlayStation pro.

And then you have the rest of us: people, who cannot truly cherish our free time nor use it productively. We just try to stay afloat in a sea of distractions, accumulated frustration and constant rumination.

Do you remember how it feels to wear a pair of trousers that does not have an elastic waistband? It now seems irrational why would anyone want to wear anything else than sweatpants.  Wearing a bra sucks but now when the suppression becomes too great, we can simply take it off. How could we wear this tormentor for hours without screaming with agony?

When this lockdown was first put in place, past me was full of hope that isolation will be a creative period of self-reflection during which I will have the time to do whatever I want: writing, researching, reading, catch-up sessions with my friends from all around the world, board game nights via video-conferencing, a new hobby… you name it!

As somebody who is a behavioural economics enthusiast, I should have known that it was my optimism bias talking.

My wake-up call was when England’s Deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries advised that during lockdown couples should either move in together or stay apart.

For newly formed relationships and couples who simply do not live together, this was an undue stress-test. It may be that coronavirus fast-tracked many relationships but it may also be the reason why Tinder and Bumble have become an ocean of horny pen pals in lockdown, with the naughty ones even proposing completely innocuous meet-ups.

Anyway, under the new circumstances, my boyfriend and I decided to stay apart and if you have experienced something similar, you’ll know that it was not an easy decision to make. However, taking into account our lifestyle and the sad fact that neither of us lives in a mansion, we had to choose between insanity and spinal dysfunction or a long distance relationship. We chose the latter.

With no boyfriend luring me, I was ready to embark into a journey of productivity and creativity.

lockdown eating

The days passed and my initial self-designated break came to an end. I, then, decided that before starting writing my next in-depth analysis of something (come on, brain, think, think!), I had to clean up my house, my room, every corner of my kitchen floor. A good beginning is half the battle won, so, I’d win my battle through successfully completing house chores. 

If you’re like me, you’ll be desperately trying to be productive, but your brain won’t function the way you need it to. You may miss the structure in your life, your sources of inspiration, the comfort of your mundane routine or you may be consumed with financial distress. And there is, of course, an underlying feeling of futility: with many industries left financially devastated in the aftermath of this crisis, is there a point in constantly trying to be productive?

But don’t worry – at least, we have reality TV.

I got hooked on trashy reality shows, which would make pre-lockdown me nod disapprovingly and lecture about the lack of body diversity and the reinforcement of gender roles, stereotypes and superficiality. So, you can understand why binge-watching a reality show featuring people whose only job to get $100,000 was to abstain from any sexual activity for one month – to which, by the way, they failed miserably –  was a record low for me. I would speak to my flatmates and we’d ask ourselves whether the contestants will manage to keep it in their pants, as if we were wondering whether they would get admitted at the Aeronautics and Astronautics programme of the MIT.

But I hit rock bottom when I started watching another reality show an experiment in which, after 10 days of intense blind dating, people find love and get married within a month. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I envy you with all my heart and urge you to remain blissfully unaware.

The bottom line is that in an ideal world, now would be the perfect time to do all those things we never have had time for. This idea has been overplayed in social media, news websites, newsletters, even promotional emails sent by retailers.  I have obviously unsubscribed from almost everywhere because I didn’t sign up to receive reminders of my existential crisis straight to my inbox but it’s almost impossible to escape the omnipresent imperative of self-improvement and productivity. But the truth is that during these challenging times, the only thing that matters is to try as hard as we can not to hate ourselves.

Naya Koulocheri

Investigative, nosy journalist and columnist. Lover of cognitive biases. MSc in Health Systems and Public Policy, BSc in European and International Studies


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