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It’s a pandemic, not pandelympics

By Sinem Bilen Onabanjo
23 May 2020   |   4:04 am
We all have that one friend. I know I do. You probably do too. The one who wakes up at 5am to iron bed linen as she finds it a form of mindfulness… No, I am not kidding.

We all have that one friend. I know I do. You probably do too. The one who wakes up at 5am to iron bed linen as she finds it a form of mindfulness… No, I am not kidding. Or the one who squeezes in a gym session every morning before getting into work. It is these women who’ve ramped up efforts to turn what should have been a good old cosy lockdown into pandelympics.

The friend who bakes every other day, having started off with easy cake recipes to ramping up to bread-making with the zest of a seasoned baker.

The neighbour who’s decided to take this pandemic induced downtime into an opportunity to learn Russian.

The woman on your survival Whatsapp group, who’s balancing working from home with home-schooling the kids nine to five.

The colleague who used to do the occasional 5K now running 5k every lunchtime.

The cousin who-keen not to put on extra pounds during the lockdown- has taken to juicing, intermittent fasting and online HIIT workouts.

The friend who’s decided that now is the perfect time to finally get to grips with Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Or the one who’s decided to start an MBA online.

As around the globe, nations slowly try to get back to a “new normal” in a bid to kick-start the economies after weeks of shutdown, and as many of us go back to work, whether back at our offices or still working remotely for the foreseeable future, these next couple of weeks may be a brutal game of keeping up with the Joneses.

The first few weeks of mutual compassion and solidarity have quickly turned into mutual competition and one-upmanship. Up and down the land, people, especially women- because really, isn’t it always women?- are comparing notes on how many cakes were baked, how many squats were accomplished or at best how many books they read while in lockdown. What began as a chance to look inwards and enjoy a bit of downtime spent with family has quickly turned into an opportunity to look outwards and see just how much more one has accomplished compared to other women…

A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend shared a quote which suggested that if you hadn’t read any books, done any home exercise or signed up on any courses, basically you were a failure, only with the word “failure” crossed out and replaced with “normal” adding that we are not taking a sabbatical for self-development; we are surviving a pandemic.

Different people deal with different situations in different ways. Some can barely survive this period of uncertainty while others may thrive. I recently read an article, which suggested that people that suffer from anxiety are surprisingly dealing with the current situation a lot better as they finally find their “catastrophising,” validated while the usually cheery ones are struggling with anxiety possibly for the first time in their lives.

As someone whose default setting is often the “worst case scenario”, I can vouchsafe that this period for me has been one of calm- because let’s face it, it doesn’t get much worse case than what the world is going through right now. Hence, my mind is at ease, not being able to come up with a worse case. Am I thriving? Perhaps not, but I know at least I am keeping physically fit, mentally agile and trying to fill my days, including the weekends, with productive pastimes. This, however, doesn’t mean I have now become a prolific cake baker or that I am training for my first triathlon.

Whether you’ve done any of the above or similar, or you’ve spent the last few weeks lounging on your sofa, busy saving the world, rest assured you are perfectly fine. This is a pandemic, not a pandelympics. Let’s not turn this into a yet another contest!

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