Creating a pause during COVID-19
At this time of global crises, it may feel like a pause button has been pressed, almost as if time is standing still. Some may see this as an opportunity to stop, breath, reflect and enjoy the liberation from the daily grind, however others may feel frustrated and trapped. There may be a growing sense of feeling more present to what is going on in the moment, without the usual distractions of our busy lives. For some this may bring welcome relief, however, for others this may feel intolerable.
Our experiences will differ depending on our ability to find a way to respond and make conscious choices, rather than react, out of unconscious awareness. Creating opportunities to pause and pay attention to our needs, consciously, in any given moment, can support us in facing these challenges.
Some of us may see lockdown as an opportunity to be more creative, discover new hobbies, spend more time with family and loved ones and enjoy the break from usual routines. For others, however, routine can provide necessary structure and support to our daily lives, and the absence of this can feel disorientating and sometimes destabilising.
Generally, we are used to a more defined distinction between work, leisure and other activities. Natural transitions such as commuting to or from work can create natural pauses in our day, as we move from one place/activity to another. Less time spent commuting may be an advantage and allow us to be more productive. On the other hand, we may find the boundaries between work and leisure becoming more blurred without the natural pause this brings. Likewise, we may have fewer distractions at home, less interruptions from meetings, interaction with colleagues etc., which can be helpful, however, this may also feel socially isolating and our work-life balance can begin to tip out of balance. Alternatively, we may have more distractions at home, and find it difficult to create a space to work from, which may feel frustrating.
We are hearing more accounts of people feeling fatigued, despite being physically less active. Our daily commute may now be from the bedroom to the kitchen, with some even working from their beds! This can be a novelty in the short term, however as time goes by this can lead to us feeling demotivated and lethargic.
Daily routines can provide a type of psychological scaffolding for us, without which we can feel less motivated and supported. This can often lead to increased levels of anxiety and stress and can negatively impact our mental health.
The longer this global crisis goes on, the more attention we need to pay to providing ourselves with new self-sustaining routines and rituals. Creating space to pause, physically and mentally, is more important than ever to help us maintain balance. We may feel that our ability to choose how we live our lives has been diminished, as we rely more and more on the state to direct us and tell us what we can and can’t do.
We do, however, have a choice in what we can do to help ourselves, on a personal level. This will vary hugely, from one person to another, depending on circumstances, however finding ways to create a pause, moments of being present in the here and now, can help us to rebalance when we feel ourselves wobble.
You can choose to consider how you structure your day, what choices you make regarding your personal wellbeing. Become aware of the following:
- How do you transition into your day? Do you tune into the news, social media for the latest fear-filled accounts of what is going on in the world, or do you choose to put your attention elsewhere?
- Pay attention to activities, people, habits that drain your energy or recharge your batteries.
- Do you take breaks throughout your day or does work/leisure time merge into one?
- If you don’t have time/space to exercise outdoors, can you take a few minutes to stretch, breathe and move on a regular basis?
- Simple things like opening windows and airing your space can not only feel good but also allows stagnant energy to shift.
- Do you take time to taste and digest your food (preferably sitting down and not at your computer)?
- Do you create some dedicated time to yourself at the end of the day, even if just for a few minutes?
- Consider what you do last thing at night, before bed? You will ”marinate” all night, in whatever you put your attention on before sleep. You can choose if this is something upsetting or uplifting, unsettling or soothing. Maybe you can choose to think about something that went well in your day, rather than ruminate about what didn’t go so well.
These rituals and moments of pause, woven throughout your day, can help create a new psychological scaffolding to support you in feeling secure and balanced, at a time when everything else may feel the complete opposite.
When we feel more balanced we will find it easier to navigate whatever challenges that life throws at us. In the words of the founder of Mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, “you can’t stop the waves but you can learn how to surf”.
Maybe that’s a hobby we should all consider!