To do work or not to do work: That is the question when social distancing

As cases of COVID-19 continue to exponentially rise around the world, health professionals are mandating that the global community practice ‘social distancing.’  This term refers to a conscious effort made by individuals to keep a physical distance between one another for the purpose of reducing the spread of an illness and flattening the curve to prevent the overburdening of the healthcare system. As the world descends into this new normal, a common ‘motivational’ anecdote passed around on social media is Shakespeare’s creation of his famous tragedy King Lear while quarantined during an outbreak of the bubonic plague five centuries ago. 

Although the act of social distancing offers a chance to explore one’s inner creativity or grind out schoolwork, it can also be an overwhelming time for many McGill students, as this generation feels more uncertainty than ever in regards to employment and education. The already constant pressure to be productive, along with the stress that comes from health crises and self-isolation, can be particularly damaging to one’s mental health. Therefore, people should also allocate some time in quarantine to relax, recoup, and reevaluate the pace at which they are normally expected to operate. 

While social distancing means spending time away from groups, it does not mean spending all day indoors. For young people today, social media, gyms, and other indoor facilities occupy most of their daily exposure. Walking around Montreal alone or with a roommate can be a great pastime and a simple yet effective way to learn more about yourself and where you live. Additionally, social distancing does not mean completely avoiding your friends or community. Spend a day FaceTiming with an old friend, help your younger sibling with their online homework, or drop off groceries for an elderly neighbour. A day helping someone else, given the proper precautions, is never a day wasted. 

Although one can learn a new craft, paint a masterpiece, or write the next great American novel, enjoying the work of others and enriching your cultural awareness can also be a beneficial use of time. This can include watching Oscar-nominated movies on Netflix, doing 1000-piece puzzles, mastering a complicated recipe, and just dancing around an empty bedroom. Sparking joy doesn’t have to be limited to the organization of one’s closet. People today often believe that there is not enough time in a day to do fun things in life, when in reality, there are plenty of enjoyable and productive activities that can be done in 24 hours, particularly when many of those 24 hours are no longer spent rushing to school or work.  

In the quickly evolving COVID-19 pandemic, many have realized that it is acceptable, and necessary, to slow down once in a while. Employees are now working from home, cancelling meetings, and prioritizing what tasks are truly important. Even large corporations have made drastic changes, cutting back on production and fossil fuel usage, therefore slowing down emissions in the process. With social distancing, patience, and cooperation, we can tackle this global problem as a collective unit, while also potentially adapting our way of life to a slower, simpler, and more enjoyable pace. 

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