EV. Insight – The pressure of being “productive” during lockdown

Musings on the pressures of lockdown – are we falling into the same “highlights reel” trap? 

I have spent the past few weeks talking about some of the positive outcomes that we’ll, hopefully, see post-lockdown. It’s a tough gig; there’s no doubting that there will be (and has been) so much heartache and loss but seeing this as a “reset” on some of our misgivings seems the most logical way to find a reason behind all of this. 

I’ve presented webinars talking about how we can find opportunity in the, dare I say it, “new normal” and a change in how we use social media has been a trending topic for us PR folk. 

As society shifts to a focus on family, home and the local community, influencers have adapted their content to provide a more realistic look into their lives. They’ve swapped unboxing of Chanel handbags for opening their new #selfcare skincare products, and instead of posing next to luxury cars in red-soled shoes, they’re wearing battered trainers on daily country walks. 

Now don’t, for one second, think these images haven’t been carefully crafted to present a behind-the-scenes lifestyle that makes them seem accessible to their followers, but it has given a glimmer of hope that even beyond lockdown, we might see the end of the aspirational highlights reel. As someone who helps brands use social media to build their presence and audience base, often with the help of influencers, I say this with a degree of hesitation. I am also the first to admit that I have a wardrobe and vanity cabinet full of products that I’ve bought after seeing them on the likes of Lorna Luxe’s Instagram Stories. 

However, there’s no denying that we all have a responsibility to use balance – like any good comms person should – and whilst social media provides an alternative shop window for brands, it’s also been at the centre of criticism for how it affects people’s mental health. The constant pressure to look good all of the time, buy the best new products, and have the “perfect” looking family is overwhelming offline, as well as online. 

The change in content, particularly on Instagram, over the past seven weeks has given me a sense of hope that maybe things will change, and we’ll come to expect a more realistic look at people’s lives. But I sit here thinking that I might have got it wrong… 

Lockdown is having an effect on everyone in different ways. Some are using it to gain back some work/life balance, others can’t escape the feeling of fear leaving the house even for a quick walk, and most are simply missing the freedom of everyday life. Now, once again, I am aware of the hypocrisy in that I’m writing this after posting a garden upcycling project, beautiful dog walk and unnecessarily large Nespresso order this weekend, but I’m becoming increasingly conscious that as the weeks pass by, social media is regaining its ability to make people feel inadequate. 

I’ve spent the whole of lockdown in a strange state of mind: “Should I spend this time doing more, or actually should I be relaxing?” I see everyone sunbathing as I’m sitting indoors in my laptop wondering whether I’m working too hard, and then when I sit down to watch Netfix, I’m faced with pictures of people on a five-mile walk. There’s definitely a pressure to feel both productive and focused on self-care, so how do we find our own balance? 

From banana bread making and Dalgona coffees, to Insta-worthy home improvements and sunrise yoga… we might have moved away from seeing valuable items as a status symbol, but we’re definitely replacing them with home-based achievements. And whilst there’s nothing wrong with using lockdown to do more and keeping yourself busy, I think there should also be a callout to everyone who simply doesn’t want to… or doesn’t have the energy. Living in a pandemic is exhausting and we need to remember that not everyone has a beautiful garden to enjoy or tonnes of money in the bank to order food and drink deliveries from small businesses. 

Whether you’re full of beans or struggling to get out of bed, our mental health has to take centre stage. Don’t get dragged into seeing everyone else on social media and feeling like you need to do more. Waking up and surviving the day is enough. It’s plenty. Plus, there will be lots of people who will regret their 6am home workout sessions when life gets back to some sort of normal, and they’ll wish they had a few more duvet days. I’ve got mum friends full of guilt because they can’t work-and-home-school-and-batch-cook at the same time, whilst looking glamorous. No, you can’t because no one can, despite what they post on social. 

But, if you are one of the people finding lockdown that little bit easier, please check in on those who might not. Use social to spread happiness and positivity but try to be realistic and help those who need it. So many people have messaged me to say it’s refreshing that, whilst keeping my usual optimism, I’ve been honest about how this has affected my business. Surely, reality is what we all need right now… it’s certainly not the time to be making out life is peachy. It’s hard… sometimes good, sometimes great, but always hard.

We are all in this together, so long as we keep in mind that – just as in the life we once knew before – everyone has their own mental state, battles, and challenges to face. Let’s try and use Covid-19 to connect us as people… and remove some of those unnecessary pressures. 

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