Home Hamster Wheels: How not to get hectic during lockdown

Uncategorized Apr 03, 2020

The sounds of my facetime ringing or facebook messenger dinging or news alerts buzzing now act as my alarm most mornings. I spend my first couple of hours catching up on updates and then messaging friends and loved ones, including regular online check-ins with my 80+ year old parents.

Then come the emails. 

I now find myself sifting through a barrage of well-intended informational briefings from companies, including some I’m only tangentially connected with. Like the manufacturer of the dishwasher I bought last year, offering me detailed information about what their company is doing to protect their employees and what I should do if my dishwasher breaks down. I’m thinking, maybe hand wash my dishes and let the service techs shelter in place too? (Except, of course, to respond to hospitals and other front line service providers. They need their dishwashers to keep running.) 

This flood of information I’m seeing also includes newsletters and social media platforms now crowded with helpful advice. I admit I’ve added a little to the cacophony, but it was before the crescendo we seem to be experiencing. 

Some of these are really important, I know. I just can’t tell which ones are until I open them. And I don’t want to miss out on something that might turn out to be critical.  

With all of the hypervigilance required of us right now, it’s already starting to feel overwhelming.

My Masters advisor, Gigi Fenster, put it perfectly when we were struggling to get a Zoom meeting on the calendar. She asked, “who would've thought that isolation could be so hectic?”.

She's one of the many instructors now having to scramble to be able to work from home and make coursework available online for students. Others scrambling are those trying to adapt for the first time to working remotely. And there are the brave souls who are still out there providing essential services, from health care workers to grocery staff. They all have very good reasons to be hectic.

I just hope they’re not getting stressed by the tsunami of helpful communication on top of everything else.

For a brief moment, for the rest of us, there was an idea that this lockdown also could be an opportunity to press pause and reflect on how we live our lives: in a constant state of busy-ness. 

Wasn’t there?

So why does it seem to be a whole lot harder than it was this time last week just to relax under my own roof?

I’m starting to feel a wee bit stressed about finding time to take advantage of all the now free online classes and trainings, chances to upgrade my software packages and become an expert in using them or even joining countless new facebook support groups recently organised to help us get through this!

Of course it’s natural for us to want to remain relevant, connected and productive. That said, I’m wondering if we’ve lost our ability to do downtime. Even during a crisis.

I read a column in the Guardian recently that made me laugh, a similar rant that articulated what I’d already started to try and unpack. The author takes hers a little farther than I am here. And unlike what she suggests, I’d honestly prefer to enjoy a little Hygge over drunkpant.

On that note, I wrote in 2018 about my year long break from alcohol. It ended, as planned, when I moved to Central Otago wine country. When the lockdown was announced I thought it might be a perfect time to try teetotalling again, to help boost my immunity.

Taika Waititi had a similar thought about using this time to get “shredded”. 

However, he added a healthy dose of realism when he tweeted, “Sadly we're human and will probably come out of it looking like the people from Wall-E.”

I really am open to tweaking my experiment (if I get to wound up my husband may be forced to intervene with a glass of pinot). All I’m really trying to do is keep things in a healthy balance.

And that’s the point, isn’t it? 

We are walking a fine line here, pacing inside our four walls.There are real reasons for us to be anxious. It’s important not to underestimate the stress. Our health is potentially at risk, and our jobs and businesses face unprecedented uncertainty. 

As social creatures, (some of us admitted huggers), we are also wired to want to interact with a wider community. Hunkered down in our homes, we face the risk of going a little stir crazy at best, or spinning out into anxiety, depression or worse.

My point is that there’s no reason to add unnecessary pressure. Staying both hyper-vigilant and hectic the entire time we’re under lockdown isn’t the answer. We need to resist the urge to jam-pack our schedules with all of these new opportunities if it isn’t really helpful or necessary.

So what to do about the onslaught of information?

I'm going to force myself to plug my phone in another room for a while (with the volume up in case of an emergency). I’m going to schedule an hour a day at least, and an entire day each week to take a walk, read a book and play some games with my family. I’m giving myself permission to take a break from “being productive” and instead find a little nook in my house where I can hide and enjoy some hygge.

It is a challenge to make ourselves downshift. But it's important we figure out how to do it. Because what’s the sense in stepping off one hamster wheel only to step right onto another?

(photo courtesy: By Doenertier82, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=642841)


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