Dear Reader,

I am, by the litmus of some, a productive person.

Yes, I write out a to-do list even during the time of quarantine. I also try and structure my days. Morning time is journal. Mid-morning is working on my coursework. Yoga in the afternoon. Done with my day by 6 p.m.

I am also reading. And I’m designing my courses for my students. I’m also writing this blog and planning the new season of the Dear Reader podcast.

Oh yes, my to-do list is a seriously little thing. It has it’s own book and it is even color coded sometimes.

It’s for this reason people consider me productive. Quarantine and global pandemics aside, I am often asked how do I stay so productive.

I tell them this: I really am not productive. Really. I’m not.

In the media, there have been several articles and opinion pieces written about how you shouldn’t be productive during this time.

This one from the New York Times talks about the idea of extra time and the pressure of filling it. This post from the New Republic argues against busy-ness during the pandemic.

But here’s the thing. For me, the structure, the to-do list, the goals and the plans…that’s not me trying to be productive during a pandemic. That’s not be looking at big swatches of time to fill.

My productivity is simply a person with depression who knows what happens when it is allowed to do and think things on its own.

I know the holes my brain can dig and I know what it takes to get out of them.

For my anxiety, I thrive on structure and research shows that’s the best thing for it. For writers, a routine is also something that is encouraged especially when it comes to the practice of writing.

Knowing that writing is going to happen at a certain time and place helps the muse visit more often.

And so routines are how I deal. Structure is how I am dealing. To-do lists are my friends. And this productivity that people seems to think I have is really a way of staying focused and healthy in an unhealthy world.

I remember when I didn’t have this coping mechanism.

It was 2015 and I was alone. I wasn’t in a good place both physically and emotionally.

And because there was nothing to look forward to, no routine, no structure, my mind wandered. And I let it.

It took everything I had to come back from that. And of course, because of that I learned so many coping mechanisms that I am now returning to.

Like structuring my days.

Like my Sanvello app that asks me to check in and to be mindful of my time.

Mindful meditation which asks me to use my senses to pay attention.

Like sitting outside when I journal because I need sunlight and trees and birds and nature.

Like doing yoga because it teaches me to breathe during challenges.

Frankly, I can’t let a thing like a global pandemic pass without thinking that there is a bigger lesson. And how I get to that lesson is by getting and using my coping mechanisms.

For example, the ability to listen to my body. It’s a gift and curse. Depression made that happen for me. I know how much to push by body before it breaks. I know the outcome to it.

I know how to rest.

So when my brain says no more for the day, then it’s no more for the day. I don’t force it. If it wants to quit at 1 p.m. on a Tuesday, I say okay, close the computer and go watch Netflix. I try again the next day.

All of this doesn’t make me productive. All of this says is that I am finally learning how to take care of myself and that my mental illness, despite what is going on in the world, will not keep me from living. It’s quite the opposite. I feel like I’m living on purpose.

What’s better than that!

Breathing through the chaos,