Counseling Center

April 13, 2020

Pressure to be productive in the face of uncertainty

Posted by Mandy Lu, Psy.D., Staff Psychologist, UWCC

If you are anything like me, I’m an expert at “should statements.” You know, things like “I should read more,” “I should exercise more,” “I should be more on top of work.” It is hard for me to recall a day in recent memory when I was completely free of “should statements.” I often find myself contemplating what I should do when I have free time or when I’m not meeting my goals – big or small. It is a normal process of checking in with ourselves to guide us through a decision-making process of “how did I get here and where do I go next to reach my goal?” Sometimes when one is overwhelmed with “should statements,” it can create a real sense of inadequacy, regret, and despair. It can be paralyzing to feel that we did not seize the moment to do something that could have put us in a better position.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has taken much of life’s normalcy from all of us. Many have also lost their jobs, gotten sick, or passed away. We are not only reeling from our grief over such losses, we are also watching, feeling, and surviving as the pandemic unfolds and continues to leave its mark. All at the same time, the show must go on. How quickly you, UW students, pivoted to the quarter going online continues to amaze me.

Some of you are doing this while away from close friends, study groups, and the people in your lab/studio/orchestra/team. Some of you are doing this while navigating family members working from home or navigating unemployment. Some of you are doing this while caring for others and yourself. Some of you are doing this while not knowing when it will be the next time you see a friend or classmate who is graduating. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the ultimate pandemic should statement of “I should make the most of my time in quarantine,” think again. Pause and check in with yourself about all of the things you are already doing for yourself and others to function at this challenging time. If it is difficult to process all of this and give yourself the credit that you deserve, try one of these exercises. You can also consider reaching out to a friend, family member, or mentor to chat about this. Therapists at Hall Health and the Counseling Center are also available via secure videoconferencing.

I will end with one of my favorite quotes, “sometimes it’s OK if the only thing you did today was breathe.”

Plug: Check out the Counseling Center’s resource pages on coping during the pandemic