These days it seems like the week days and weekends are just blurring together.
Remember way back when, we used to be able to take a spontaneous trip if we wanted to...?
For me, one of the hardest parts of the pandemic situation is that you can’t really plan very far into the future because well, we don’t know what the future will be like. So, it’s sometimes hard to find things to look forward to in the same way that it used to be.
I mean, geez...the past 7 months have kind of blended together.
I have a few tips to make your weeks exciting again and feel a tiny bit of “normal”.
Hopefully these tips will help make the days seem more “normal” and not blend into each other so easily. And you don’t have to make big life changes all at once! Even introducing just one good habit, and slowly introducing more, will make a world of a difference.
Seven months into the pandemic and with no end in sight, many people have been feeling a sense of unease and upset that goes beyond anxiety or distress. For many, it's a nameless feeling that somehow makes it hard to go on with even the enjoyable things you regularly do.
And seems to be there constantly these days, no matter what you do or how you support yourself. There’s a deep sense of feeling lost and disoriented that is plaguing many people these days.
What you are experiencing right now is ancient. It’s called “acedia” and is linked back to Medieval monks who were plagued with this listlessness too.
Acedia is the sense of no longer caring about caring, not because one has become apathetic, but because somehow the whole process of caring becomes blocked and all jammed up.
On the face of it, you quite likely care very much about the health risks to those you know and even those you don't know. Alongside this, though, is a sense of dislocation, an anchorless-ness that somehow interferes with how you care.
Think about it this way...
If you’re like the rest of humanity, everyone assumes that there will be a future world that survives your particular lifetime, a world inhabited by people similar to you, including some who are related to you or perhaps even known to you.
We probably even have envisioned it somewhere deep inside, even though we’re not conscious this has happened.
Though you rarely pay attention to this deep assumption or even acknowledge it, this presumed future world is the horizon, or the anchor, towards which everything you do in the present is oriented.
Philosophers have studied how losing one’s horizon (the future how we thought would exist) impacts one’s day to day activities. And what they found was that the things that you value start to lose their value.
Your sense of why things matter today is built on the presumption that they will continue to matter in the future, even when you, yourself, is no longer around to value them. Your present relations to people and things are, in this deep way, future-oriented.
So, given that most of us have lost our sense of what the future will look like, this sense of dislocation, melancholy and listlessness makes sense then in this current Covid-19 reality.
The origins, then of our current, dislocation and listlessness is not the literal loss of a future but a more subtle and unconscious disruption in pretty much every future frame of reference on which just going on in the present relies.
“Moving around” is what we do as humans and for that we need horizons. Covid has erased many of the spatial and temporal horizons we rely on, even if we don't notice them consciously very often.
So, if you’re one of those people feeling listless and having a hard time accomplishing anything much, you make sense. There’s a very good reason why this is happening.
Naming this malaise may seem more trouble than it's worth, but actually, the opposite is true. When we name something we replace ambiguity with form and structure. We suddenly make the invisible, visible. This is powerful.
What these religious philosophers also discovered about the ancient acedia experience by the Medieval monks was that struggling through it in isolation aggravated the experience ten-fold.
Isolation makes everything worse. It still does today.
I get it: connection is changed too. It’s not possible to be in person with others in the same ways that we took for granted pre-pandemic. I, too, am exhausted and getting burnt out from the day to day ongoing connection through a computer screen, over a telephone line or through texting or chat messaging.
And yet folks, this is reality now.
If connection via a screen is all we have right now, then we have to begin having “real” connection, real conversations about the things that are truly happening all around us. This is what’s going to reduce your sense of feeling lost and anchorless.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll begin to recognize our current experience of acedia is a problem we need to tackle together -- across political and cultural lines -- as families, communities, nations and a global humanity.
Which means doing so in acceptance of our shared vulnerability, finding ways to connect with each other and weather this storm in real and authentic connection, rather than suffering each on our own.
I’m going to let you in on my #1 trick for managing stress during these highly stressful times…
Ready for it?
Turn off your phone. Get outside. Stop doing anything except for what you want to be doing.
I know, crazy right? I don’t just lock my phone and put it in another room or put it on “Do Not Disturb”, I literally turn it off for 1 hour. (Or more sometimes!)
Let me explain why.
Technology has advanced exponentially in such a short amount of time, which has been wonderful, and given us so many avenues of communication, 24/7. However, this can get distracting and even intrusive at times.
Turning off my phone even for just 1 hour per day allows me to have a true separation from notifications, social media, emails, etc. rather than trying to take a break, and seeing the notifications pile up.
Now, I know what you may be thinking: Are you crazy!?
You may think that by literally turning your phone off, people won’t be able to reach you, you may miss something important, etc.
But let me just remind you: it’s just for 1 hour.
Especially when you are feeling stressed, that 1 hour can make such a difference.
If there is a true emergency, there are still other ways of reaching me, but for the most part - most things can wait 1 hour. And I can’t tell you the relief I felt when I went to habitually check my phone, and it was a black screen.
I could even feel the relief as a physical experience in my body: my shoulders and stomach relaxed and I could breathe more easily.
The dilemma with our phones is that, especially if you work from home, even when you try to take a break by taking a walk, you may be using your phone to listen to music or a podcast.
But that means that your phone has to be on, and even if you have some notifications on “Do Not Disturb”, the little red number on the app still adds up.
This is soooooooo anxiety inducing, knowing that while you’re on your break, the work is still piling up.
Kinda undermines the whole intention of a break if you think about it.
Turning off your phone - completely off - for just 1 hour per day can help you get the relaxation that you truly need.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes for you. I just love experimenting like this!
Right now, self-compassion is more important than ever. The truth is, even if you don’t know anyone personally who has been affected by COVID-19 or many of the other global issues going on right now, you’ve had to adapt to a completely new lifestyle.
I really dislike the notion of, “Well, I don’t have it as bad as ____”.
Just because the worst possible thing is not happening to you doesn’t mean you aren’t experiencing a difficult time.
It might even be that your difficulty is completely unrelated to the pandemic, and that is okay.
If one of your closest friends was feeling down on themselves, and feeling guilty for not being as productive as they could have been, how would you react?
You’d probably say something like...
“It’s okay, we are all facing something completely unprecedented right now, no one is expecting you to be operating at 100%, that’s just unrealistic.”
Why wouldn’t you extend yourself the same kindness?
Self-care doesn’t always have to be bubble baths, music, and candles.
Sometimes self-care is as simple as treating yourself like you would a friend.
It can be very difficult to make this mindset shift, however, it is one of the most useful techniques in self-compassion.
Next time you’re feeling disappointed in yourself for not finishing something, or just feeling exhausted from everything, imagine a close friend is in the exact situation.
What would you say to them?
It’s really not fair to yourself if you treat everyone in your life - friends, family, strangers even - with kindness and compassion and don’t treat yourself the same way.
Even if it may seem obvious, sometimes you can get a little lost or stray from this habit, (I know I’ve been there!).
And sometimes all you need is a little reminder to be as kind to yourself as you are to everyone else.
These days, when every day seems to feel the same, it can be easy to yearn for something more.
It’s human, it’s natural, it’s 100% okay to need a change of scenery.
Whether you're “something more” is a fun day trip outside of the city, a picnic in the park, or just a movie night at home, it’s something to look forward to.
I don’t know about you, but I always find myself trying to “get ahead” in order to be more productive, so I don’t feel guilty about taking time for myself.
The reason why this can be so difficult is because, as an entrepreneur, business owner, and everything else alike, we don’t have a 9-5. We work when we want to, which can be an amazing benefit, but also be difficult to navigate with the work-life balance.
I wake up, I make a to-do list, cross things off, then what? I think, “Hmm...is there anything else I could do? Is there anything I could do to get ahead?”
I sometimes get in the mindset of, well, if I just work a little bit ahead, I can take Friday afternoon off, have a self-care night on Saturday, or whatever it may be.
This can actually be very damaging to our productivity, and I’ll tell you why.
Shhhh… here it is…
In case you didn’t realize this, you don’t need to feel guilty for taking half a day off of work.
You don’t need to spend 10 minutes every day wondering if you could’ve been more productive or done more.
You deserve to take time for yourself, family, friends, pets, etc. just because.
Resting so that you can be productive is the #1 way to ensure that you’ll have the energy, stamina and resources to knock out what you need to when it’s time.
When I try to “get ahead” by finishing those last 2 projects or tasks for the week, just so I don’t feel “guilty” taking a few hours for relaxation, it actually makes me more stressed out.
Because the list never ends. There is always more to do. Always.
You aren’t a constant wheel of productivity that just goes, and goes, and goes.
If you have ever been in this mindset (no judgement here, I’ve been there too), it can actually lead us to burnout faster, because we feel bombarded with tasks (even though we are giving ourselves the tasks to complete!!)
Instead of working yourself into the ground, so you “deserve” a day off, set real boundaries for yourself.
Don’t ever feel bad about putting away the laptop and just enjoying some time for yourself.
The work will be there when you get back.
There is no need to plow through it.
I hope this plants a seed inside around the idea that working ahead and trying to be more productive is not always the most beneficial thing for our mental or physical health.
Should I push through...or pause…?
This balancing act is one that many people are constantly attempting to manage in their lives, in all sorts of facets, whether they realize it or not.
For some people like yourself, it might even be a bit baffling that there would even be a choice here…
I mean, afterall, if you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone, how will you ever be successful in life?
Well, recently, I finished up a year of intense business training, during which I was working day and night on special projects, audience building, content writing and so forth.
Every free moment was spent pushing to grow my business, return phone calls, manage special projects, lead my team...and all this took place after working full days in the office with clients in my private therapy practice.
And you know what…? At the end of all of this, I needed a break. I started feeling burnt out from the constant driving towards “more” as well as the ongoing pressure inside to produce and create.
Although I am one for challenging myself to grow, what I am also learning as I grow is that sometimes “less is more”.
I mean it folks...it really is.
You know what happens when you continue to push yourself past your internal supports…? You get sick, you get run-down, you lose motivation and sometimes you end up severely burnt out.
Especially if you’re an Intuitive personality type.
Intuitives are wired to work in bursts of energy, with down time in between, pursuing what “strikes your fancy” even if it doesn’t seem to connect with what you were doing previously.
Grinding it out, day after day, over and over might work ok for some tasks and projects, but ultimately what it will do is overstress your system, much like if you were to run a car engine at high speed for an extended amount of time.
There is great wisdom in learning how to discern between pushing through and pausing to rest.
And most of the time, true discernment is not a cognitive practice. It is not a brain activity.
True discernment happens when you learn to slow down, turn inward and reconnect with what you want and need, what will make you happy and satisfied.
And it is impossible to determine this when you’re moving so quickly you barely see anything speeding by.
Evolvement is a balancing act between growing and resting. Sometimes, choosing to step off the corporate ladder of success is actually the most productive thing you can do for yourself and your business.
No matter whether you’re a business leader, an entrepreneur, a parent or just someone who strives to live a balanced life, rest and play is an integral part of success as work.
You know what many people’s biggest regrets are at the end of their lives? It’s not that they didn’t make enough money or have enough “stuff”... it’s that they missed out on all the little moments that make up a life.
Don’t let that be you. If you struggle to find time to relax and rest, it might be time for you to explore that more deeply.
I promise you that that dilemma is the very thing that is getting in your way of getting where you want to be in your business or life.
Have you been experiencing what we call “Zoom Fatigue?”
Whether you have been working from home even before COVID-19, or you had to pivot due to COVID-19, you likely have to spend part of, if not ALL of your work day on Zoom, or another video meeting application.
I’m not sure about you, but I never expected the exhaustion and state of fatigue that comes directly after even ONE video call. So, it got me wondering...why does this happen?
Oftentimes, in a video conferencing program, you are prompted with videos of everyone, including yourself, which can be extremely draining.
Even if you are the most confident person in the world, it can be a little nerve-wracking to look at yourself all day long. This can also stir up self-consciousness about how others perceive you as well.
Think of it this way, if you were having that same exact meeting in person rather than on Zoom, would you be looking towards a projector screen, and be focused on that rather than your own appearance?
Or would your attention be turned towards a speaker, presenter, or manager, rather than everyone’s faces? When you are in a meeting in person, it’s likely that you (and everyone else) is focused on the front of the room, maybe your boss is running a meeting, or you are viewing a presentation.
Even in those types of in person meetings, everyone CAN see each other, however, their attention is focused on a central point in the front (like a projector or main speaker).
On Zoom, you can see yourself, your colleagues/other participants, AT ALL TIMES. Even if someone is sharing their screen, you can still see everyone on the side panel.
It takes a lot of emotional energy to manage the distress inside around this new dynamic. So, of course you’re exhausted by this!
Not to mention that on Zoom or any other video conferencing platform, you might feel like you have to make more of an overt effort to appear interested and to “prove” you’re paying attention.
Because you are online, you kind of have to replace in person non-verbal cues that would suggest that you are being attentive, with things such as intense listening and long sustained eye contact.
Another reason why you may be feeling a little anxious during a Zoom meeting is because of your surroundings. If you have children, what if the kids run in? Or if you have roommates, what if someone knocks on your door? What if the dogs start barking at a squirrel when your mic is on?
Because of the lack of separate work space, your home life and work life are more mixed up and intertwined than ever. You certainly never had to consider any of these things if you were taking meetings in an office or coffee shop. It takes a lot of energy to manage boundaries like this.
And then of course, there’s the whole technology thing.
If you haven’t already experienced some sort of delay on a Zoom meeting (in which case your internet speed must be crazy fast!!!), you probably will at some point.
Silence is a natural part of conversations in person, however, in a Zoom meeting, if it suddenly goes silent, I know my first thought is, “Am I frozen?” Having to constantly worry about this is definitely another stressor.
So what can you do to reduce this fatigue? The first suggestion I have is to reduce any unnecessary meetings (Hello, “could’ve been an email!”).
If you have the flexibility to do so, I would also recommend spacing your Zoom meetings out throughout the week, so you don’t have to sit in front of your computer for an entire day experiencing these frustrations or anxieties related to Zoom.
My last recommendation is to consider phone calls for certain meetings. Not everything has to be on video! This will at least take some of the pressure off of you, you don’t have to worry about looking a certain way or freezing on screen, and you can even take a call while you go on a walk and enjoy some fresh air.
Whether you have 5 Zoom meetings a day or 1 a week, I hope you have a little bit better understanding of why these meetings can be so draining, and walk away with some tips to help you reduce “Zoom Fatigue”.
But above all else, I hope that you can be gentle with yourself. You’re still adjusting to this new way of life. You’ve never been in this situation before, so you’re not supposed to know how to live it perfectly.
Stay safe, be well.
Kate is an INFJ-3 on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Enneagram.