Fellow Melbournians, we are collectively fatigued. I hear it day in and day out in my counselling and coaching practice. I feel it in my body and mind. I admire Melbournians immensely as I listen to our attempts to get on with it, re-frame, call on our resilience and empathise with others in the same boat. Amidst that, many of us have friends and family in other states that are posting in social media feeds all the things we would love to take for granted again. Travel pics, restaurant visits, drinks with friends, family events. There is an ache in my heart as I even type this!
It is difficult to convey to our friends and family in other states exactly what it is like to have so many of your freedoms no longer available to you. Non-Melbournians are well meaning and sympathetic but the actual experience is a phenomena that you have to experience to understand. A clumsy equivalence is “the frazzled supermarket parent phenomena”. Remember BEFORE you had children and you would see a stressed out and overwhelmed parent shoving chips into their child at the supermarket? With a smug (and profoundly ignorant) smile of sympathy you thought, I would cope better than that. I would NEVER do that with my children. Yeah, right. You just didn’t know you will do whatever it takes to get through. You just didn’t know how the challenges would wear you down over time.
And worn out we are! 6 months of reduced freedom takes it’s toll. On the bright side, we have a lot of hair to pull out since hairdressers are closed! Hair pulling aside, many of our coping mechanisms are not available right now but there are some simple ways to take the edge off lock down fatigue:
1. Identify where you are stuck in a rut
We are creatures of habit and this tendency can lead to feeling stuck. When conditions change, we don’t always change to suit. Habits are a human efficiency system that work when things are certain but require a fresh perspective when things change.
Consider when you were able to leave your house to go to work. You would have had a series of habits that constitute your morning routine. The alarm goes off at a certain time. You get ready in a certain order. You eat the same breakfast you always eat. You leave home at a certain time. You take the same method of transport. You get the picture . We create these habits so that we can efficiently run our day. We can then go on autopilot, saving our brain power for more strenuous or creative endeavours.
You will have already created a lock down routine and will be roughly sticking to it. This efficiency system creates autopilot and boredom. To get some sense of possibility and novelty back, identify where you are stuck in a rut and tweak your habits again.
2. Control what you can
Once you have identified where you are stuck in a rut, brainstorm a list of things you can do to change it. We may not be able to change lock down but there are still some things within our control. Only you know what will make a difference to you but try to think creatively.
Some options clients have generated are: rearranging the spaces within their home, giving themselves permission to home school during hours that suit them, having flowers delivered regularly, setting up their home office so they are no longer making do with temporary solutions, exploring restaurants remotely, camping in the back yard, writing gratitude journals, sending care packages to friends, working in the sunshine. Brainstorm away!
3. Accept where you are at
Once you’ve identified where you are stuck and changed what you can, accept where you are at. We often want things to be other than they are. We have high expectations of ourselves and our ability to cope with anything. While we may have empathy for the suffering of others, we often find it hard to extend this courtesy to ourselves. We may try to rally ourselves by thinking that others have it worse than us. It is a fact that there will always be someone worse off than you. Depending where you are at, this line of thinking will help you or make you feel worse. When you have more resilience you can fortify yourself with a broader perspective and practice gratitude for what you do have.
When your resilience is down you can feel a sense of failure and guilt that you don’t feel better than you do. But everyone will struggle at some point in their lives, particularly during something as unprecedented as lock down. No one wants to be bored. Or stuck. We don’t want to struggle. But sometimes we are bored, stuck or struggling. And it’s okay. It will pass, but first we need to accept that we are struggling. Armed with the acceptance that we are not okay we can tackle it. That starts with reaching out for help, be it your GP, a helpline, a friend or a therapist. Where ever you are at is where you start to address things. One of the great paradoxes of life is, when you accept where you are, you can change things.