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To work at home – or not?

Last April 7, the national government announced the extension of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) until April 30, 2020. The announcement just made the extension official, but it didn’t come as a surprise. Without mass testing, we wouldn’t really know the real numbers of positive COVID-19 patients. Plus, the ECQ won’t make much of a difference if we don’t know where we are and what we’re up against.

For some of us, the extension means another two weeks of work from home. If you’re part of this group, good for you. I can’t stress enough the fact that we are fortunate to still have a regular source of income despite not having to physically show up for work. That in itself is a blessing. Others like daily wage earners and MSMEs are not as lucky. The government, with the help of everyone, has to gather all resources and support these sectors during these trying times. There’s no dispute about that.

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What’s been up for dispute, though, is this argument for or against productivity.

I remember when I was diagnosed with severe anxiety. I would wake up, take a bath, eat, then sleep. If I were not sleeping, I would be walking restlessly, fidgeting, crying, hyperventilating, etc. Given the options, I chose to sleep. Many attempts to work would go on like this. Open laptop, push the power button, open document, type mindlessly, close document, push the power button, repeat. Soon, my favorite pastime, painting, became a struggle. I couldn’t even stand using my earphones.

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But thankfully, I recovered. With the help of medication and therapy sessions, I learned how to cope. Part of this means actively identifying automatic thoughts that trigger emotions. This includes pushing myself to take up physical activities, going out to meet friends, and so on. I got back to work. Eventually, I was painting again.

Some people might say, you should have just done that in the first place — push yourself. If you’re thinking that, you missed the whole point. There was a time when I couldn’t. The only thing I could do was sleep. My doctor gave me medications and told me to sleep. My mind was tired and it needed to — guess what — sleep.

When I got better, I realized that I had more control and was in a position to make changes. I can either take it easy or gradually help myself. It’s a reality I still face every day. There are days that really suck and I just have to accept and wait the anxiety out. But there are days, if I’m being honest, when I know I can shake it off. I also know that those better days are increasing, and it’s up to me to maximize them so that the bad days lessen even more.

Here’s the clincher. It’s all about self-awareness. No one knows our own situation better than ourselves.

You’re taking care of two senior citizens at home. You’re doing the groceries, which is becoming more taxing and daunting each day. You’re getting agitated being confined by four walls. You’re worrying about the future. Internet sucks and your laptop’s crashing. Anxiety seeps in.

Or not. You have internet access. It crashes once in a while when you’re watching Netflix. You can’t wait to taste Jollibee Spaghetti again but, for now, you would have to deal with mom’s cooking.

I’m not saying that if you’re able to watch Netflix, you should probably be working. I’m also not giving the situations previously mentioned as checklists for not working. The point is, we all have to be considerate of each one’s unique situation as a result of this pandemic.

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Persons in authority (I’m looking at you, employers and teachers) can’t just assume that everyone is well and able to deliver the same work outputs as if it were a regular day. The national government is once again under hot water because it has based the list of would-be cash-aid beneficiaries on an outdated census. Correct data is crucial for policymakers to make efficient decisions. We ask our government to be grounded on reality, so shouldn’t we ask that from ourselves as well?

Self-awareness also entails knowing when we’re making excuses.

To work or not to work (or to study or not to study, to learn or not to learn a new skill, to exercise or not to exercise — the list goes on): That is not the question.

Rather, it’s this, first of all: How are you?

* * *

Patricia Irene C. Patdu, 28, works as a researcher at the Center for Local and Regional Governance, UP Diliman.

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TAGS: Patricia Irene C. Patdu, working at home, Young Blood
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