Has this week felt extra tough to you, despite lockdown restrictions easing? Did you expect the latest announcements to put an extra spring in your step, but instead you’ve felt more exhausted and overwhelmed than ever? For the first time in months, it felt like we could collectively let out a small sigh of relief; restrictions were starting to ease, and we could see a (vague) path leading us towards the direction of “normality.” But, in contrast to the joy and excitement I expected to feel since the Government’s announcement at the beginning of the week, I’ve lacked more motivation this week than I have during the entirety of lockdown. I’ve felt tired, sluggish, and simply exhausted. It was confusing to me that I was struggling this week while it seemed the rest of the country was celebrating. I love my friends, I love my family, and I cherish spending time with them - so why wasn’t I over the moon that it became (somewhat) legal to do so? Upon reflection, I’ve come to realise a number of forces at play. It’s not that I don’t want to socialise with my delightful friends and family again - and of course I’m thrilled that we might be able to get our economy moving again soon - it’s just that there have been other factors complicating and overshadowing the excitement I expected to feel. Perhaps you’ve been feeling similarly baffled, so here are a few reasons why this might be the case (at least, I think they’ve contributed for me):
The rubber band theory: I read this super interesting article on Mamamia about the rubber band theory and how isolation fatigue has come into play as restrictions ease. I encourage you to read the full article, but basically if you imagine yourself as a rubber band, during this time of adjusting to lockdown you’ve stretched yourself so thin, but now, as restrictions start to ease and you don’t need to stretch so much, you’re snapping back, hard and fast. Another great way the article explains this theory is that it’s like we’ve been holding our breath for so long during lockdown, and now that we can finally breathe a little again - we realise just how exhausting it was holding on this whole time. Given it’s been so hard for me to get out of bed this week, I think this theory might just be on to something...
Fear of a “second wave”: Although the easing of lockdown restrictions looks a little different in each state across the country - there’s one consistent message I keep hearing. “Don’t get complacent - beware of the second wave.” It’s hard to ignore these warnings and all of the comparisons to the Spanish Flu a century ago, in which a “second wave” was significantly larger and deadlier than the first. If we aren’t careful, we could go backwards - something that of course would make many of us feel a bit anxious. It’s hard to be too excited about lockdown restrictions easing when there’s a chance it could end up making our situation much worse.
The incomplete to-do list: Although well-intentioned, I couldn’t help getting a little frustrated with all of the articles published at the start of lockdown with tips on being productive, learning new skills and starting your side-hustle to “make the most” of this time. I knew I didn’t need the extra pressure to use this time to be productive and finish a massive to-do list, instead I just wanted to be proud of getting through each day - without any guilt for resting. But alas, as lockdown restrictions started to ease I recognised a little voice in my head thinking - “wait, lockdown can’t be over - I haven’t cleaned out my entire house yet, I haven’t brushed up on my French skills and I certainly haven’t launched that product yet!” At a conscious level, I recognise that lockdown was never about proving how much I could get done, but I can’t deny there’s a small part of me buried deep down that’s panicking that I haven’t got enough to show for my time in lockdown. I’m just doing my best not to listen to it. The return of the rat race: Although I acknowledge that this period has been so awful for so many - physically, mentally and emotionally - I must admit that there was a part of me that saw a silver lining in all of this chaos. The world was far from healthy before coronavirus came along - the pressure of our fast-paced lives was creating a very different kind of disease; burnout. In lockdown we were finally forced to stop and slow down, and take time for ourselves to recharge and reflect on what’s really important. So many of us needed this reminder to take time to appreciate the little things. Part of me is worried that as things start to return to “normal”, there will be less value placed on taking time to pause, and it will become harder to give ourselves permission to rest. The exact same could be said about the environment and how some of our negative impacts on the planet have started to restore during this time of lockdown . I truly hope that we will have learnt important lessons to apply upon return to the “daily grind”, but only time will tell.
Inequality, status and material things: Another thing that I found somewhat comforting during this lockdown has been a lack of emphasis on status and material things. Inquisitive kids and barking pets were interrupting Zoom calls from our home offices regardless of whether we were the CEO or the intern. The latest fashion trends were replaced by comfy loungewear and activewear on rotation for everyone - from those of us chilling in iso with our parents to famous celebs isolating in their mansions. We all stayed at home, agreeing that the health of ourselves and our fellow humans was the most sacred thing. It was comforting to know we were all going through these challenges together, as (kind-of) equals. I truly hope that we remember this when we return to the hierarchical structures of the office.
And an extra note for my fellow introverts; I must admit I'm a little worried that I won’t have the same energy levels to be able to socialise as much as I did pre-lockdown. Recharging at home in solitude has become my new norm, and although I can’t wait to start spending time with my loved ones again, the possibility of a sudden rush to socialise with multiple different groups of family and friends (and possibly colleagues) can feel a little overwhelming. I think a slow and steady approach to socialising will be on the cards for me, in order to avoid burnout. Please make sure you take steps to protect your energy too. As I’ve been writing out these thoughts, something has become increasingly clear to me. Although these revelations might have appeared to me as fears-slash-concerns-slash-confusions, they’re actually opportunities in disguise. I think we now have the opportunity to start living a new normal - not the kind we’ve adjusted to in isolation, but also not the exact kind of hustle and bustle of pre-lockdown either. We have the opportunity to choose the kind of “normal” we go back to. We can choose whether or not to remember the lessons we learnt during this time, keeping them as tools when the world starts to creep back to a faster pace. We can choose whether or not to continue prioritising self-care, to continue living a little slower, to continue appreciating the little things, and to continue treating ourselves and each other as equals who all deserve kindness and care. I sure hope we choose wisely. Em x