“Am I Doing Enough?” Understanding Our Inner Critic During COVID-19

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Written by Erynn Besser, LPC

As we slowly move into the second month of social distancing, we are working hard to maintain both physical and mental health. There are numerous ways our lives have shifted and social distancing is an experience we never thought we’d have. With the majority of businesses and institutions closed, our daily lives have changed in monumental ways, leaving us time to evaluate how we are spending our days and questioning whether or not we are doing enough. If you have found yourself struggling with feeling unproductive, or are hearing your inner-critic whisper “you should be doing more,” you are not alone.

But what is this feeling all about? Often times, considering a new perspective and having a better understanding of our circumstances is just the challenge we need in order to shift from self-criticism to self-compassion. To begin to access self-compassion, consider these points of view. 

 

Too Many Hats

We are used to wearing many different “hats” on any given day. However, it is not always in the same space and at the same time. Perhaps we find ourselves coming home from work, our partners or kids excited to see us, only to find that we do not feel like talking or projecting our stress from the day onto the people we love most. This is a common experience and it’s typical that we may need time to transition from one space to the next, or in other words, change hats.

With being sheltered-inplace we are wearing too many hats at once and have even less time to transition between roles. You may be getting your work done, and perhaps even working harder than you did before, but the multitasking of roles can make it difficult to feel focused or present, impacting your feelings of accomplishment and productivity. Even when we are doing more, it can feel like we are doing less. When we experience this feeling it can be helpful to take a step back and allow ourselves to remember everything we are juggling at once. Whether you are taking Zoom calls in between nap and snack time, or catching up on Tiger King while contemplating the safest way to get your groceries, you are expending more energy than ever before! Be compassionate towards yourself and remember all that you are managing at once.

Slowing Down

In a world where we are constantly on the go, slowing down can be an uncomfortable experience. Those whose calendars were once filled with in-person social engagements and endless to-do’s are now left feeling unsure about how to fill their time. Perhaps you are navigating the challenge of unemployment or, if still employed, work itself has slowed significantly, causing it to now feel tedious, boring or simply exhausting!

It is understandable that, with such a dramatic and unexpected shift in scheduling, we may find ourselves feeling less productive. In this case, it is important to remind ourselves of what we have control over and what we don’t. When your inner critic decides to resurface, be kind to yourself. Thank the critic for checking in on you and for protecting you from becoming too complacent. Then, kindly remind yourself that these changes are out of your control and you are doing the best you can under these unique circumstances.

The Impact of Global Change

Finally, it is important to remember that regardless of your exact shelter-in-place circumstances, you are experiencing the impact of global change. Our schedules and lives look significantly different than they did just several weeks ago, which comes with an adjustment period. We are now looking at our daily habits through a new lens. A lens that requires a different energy level than we are used to. The good news is staying home has taken on new meaning and one that is inherently productive!

 

Whether you find yourself overwhelmed with the number of roles you are taking on all at once or are struggling to fill your days with meaningful to-dos, you are making a sacrifice. This sacrifice contributes to the wellbeing of our communities, our nation, and our world. So, the next time your inner critic resurfaces, have compassion for yourself and remember…you are doing enough!