This pandemic is relentless. Living with shifting expectations, restrictions and rules feels like it has been going on for ages. And it has. The need to adapt, accommodate, reorganise and accept the situation is an ongoing challenge.
Whatever your individual circumstances and situation, there will have been changes to your daily life and if your anything like me and the conversations I’ve had with friends, you’re likely be feeling tired or frustrated or fed up or hopeless or any combination of these. Yes, there are moments that things feel good or positive or ok, but the reality is there’s likely to be a mix of emotions.
I sometimes feel that we try and find optimism and positivity in times of change and this can be helpful in motivating us to keep going. However, it can also be an additional drain on our resources; trying to look like we’re doing ok when we’re not takes energy. And that’s going to be the focus of this blog- resources, energy and the impact of change.
If we consider our ‘normal lives’ and the automated, habituated way it generally runs, we can see that the way we organise ourselves and our routines utilises our resources and our energy in a functional and effective way (most of the time). I mean, it’s not perfect, we’ve all had those days where everything seems to be ok and then one thing goes awry or is out of routine; ‘I can’t find my PE kit’; ‘my shoes have a hole in them’; an unexpected phone call with a work emergency as you leave the house.
This usually (for me anyway) leads to stress, emotional ups and downs and a feeling that the rest of the day doesn’t quite go as I expected. It’s not always this way; sometimes I can ride with it and flex and adapt. But, and this is the important bit to recognise, if I’m already feeling stressed or stretched, my capacity to flex and adapt is reduced.
Why is that? I’d suggest that part of the reason is because these things require energy to deal with. They take resources we had not anticipated needing to use in the habitual running of our daily lives and so we are left with a little bit less than we need to complete the tasks of the rest of the day. If at the same time we're working close to full capacity, it doesn’t take much difference in the running of the day for the demands to outstrip the resources and this is when it can feel unmanageable, stressful and emotional.
Now think about how much has changed in two weeks. Can it really only be two weeks since that Monday night announcement that forced everyone to reorganise, adapt and accommodate; a return to home work, home school, home everything?
Some might say it was always coming. I would say whether it was or it wasn’t, the impact of the change being overnight from kids going to school and childcare to home schooling is a huge shift in our daily set up and routine and consequently, a huge shift in the demands on our personal resources and energy.
A shift that we didn’t have time to plan and prepare for and so we had to respond and adapt to ‘in the moment’. In some ways, this quick shift is still playing out this week, I feel like I’m still in that period of adjustment and can’t help feeling that if I’d been able to plan, to process before the event, I would be feeling less wobbly, less on edge and more in control.
When you look at the bigger picture it’s logical that this is a hard time. We aren’t living the same life we were two weeks ago, we aren’t able habituate, manage and cope the same way because the demands on us are increased and our opportunity for respite is reduced. And yet we still try to achieve everything at the level we used to.
Is it starting to make sense why you might be feeling overstretched, tired and with less capacity to manage the things that normally wouldn’t phase you?
So, what can we do? My first thought is to stop, look at the reality and shift our expectations accordingly.
To feel in control, I think it helps to stop and look at the whole picture rather than focus on the current stressor or demand on our energy and attention. If we stop and look at everything that is sucking our resources we can; firstly give ourselves a bit of a break in expecting ourselves to ‘just get on with it’; and secondly, look at where our energy is going so we can decide if its ‘worth’ spending our energy there or if there’s another way to do things.
If you think about life using the Person-Environment-Occupation model that I’ve talked about before, it becomes easier to see that we're trying to accommodate to changes in all areas of our lives. Here’s my examples:
Person- I feel emotional and stressed and worried about lots of things. I would not usually say I’m a particularly worried person so this feels different for me. Worry takes energy.
Occupation- home schooling and the juggle with work, not going out and seeing friends or going for dinner or nipping for a coffee etc. etc. etc. It’s all changed and on top of that many of the things I have to do now to do are not occupations I generally feel skilled in (there is a good reason I’m not a primary school teacher!). Doing unfamiliar things takes energy.
Environment- the restrictions are physical and social and the lack of choice and variety in both is hard. My social circle is drastically reduced and time with family drastically increased! I have less places (physically and metaphoricaly) to go to replenish my energy.
And these are just a few of the changes. You might find there are more, less or different changes for you but there is likely to be change in all areas.
There’s an example in the file share of the things that the Person-Environment-Occupation model might include and a blank worksheet to put your ideas down on if that’s useful.
But, it can be helpful to just stop and note down the changes that have had most impact for you. This doesn’t need to take long, just think about:
what about you (person) feels different at the moment?
what about the physical and social environments has changed (this might be a long list!!)?
what is it about the things that you do day to day (occupation) that’s changed (perhaps list both the things you can’t do and the things you now need to do that usually aren’t part of your routine)?
Try and take some time to look at the demands on your resources and think about if any of them could change or of it really is a case of ‘just get through this bit’. Even its the latter, acknowledging the cause of the stress can save a bit of energy as you’re more aware of why your stressed and so can accept that with less energy spent on worry and guilt.
If you can, think about how you normally replenish energy. This can be rest and sleep but it’s also in the activities we find important and enjoyable. Doing the things that makes us feel like ourselves is replenishing. If it’s hard to do these things in current circumstances think about which bits of it might be available: I have a previous blog about this from last time round https://www.katebinnington.co.uk/post/so-many-hours-in-a-day-and-i-just-want-5-minutes
In summary, energy and resources are finite and currently stretched by circumstance and demands. It makes sense that you’re not doing things the way you normally would, or as well as you would like; your life isn’t organised the way it usually is and you’re in the process of adaptation. Try not to be too hard on yourself and try to find (and notice!) moments of respite to replenish much need energy.
Take care, thanks for reading.