Lockdown: Finding Balance in Chaos
Discussing ‘burn out’, new time management and three pillars to ground the daily grind
Before the UK entered lockdown I never really had much spare time on my hands. I’ve always been busy and when I have found an iota of time to relax I always end up plotting in some way, shape or form to make myself busy once more. Finding balance is something I’ve never been a dab hand at. Setting challenging goals, stuffing any additional nonsense into my bursting schedule and leaving me little or no time to do absolutely jack is more my style. My all guns blazing approach has certainly stirred up anxious qualities within me, as well as taking a toll on my social life and career progression.
I have been burned out by my ambitions and work commitments more times than I care to count and the consequences of that have been pretty devastating at times. The sad thing is I’m not alone in this. Gallup recently surveyed more than 7,500 full-time employees about burnout. 23 percent of those workers said they felt burned out more often than not. An additional 44 percent reported feeling burned out sometimes. To put that into context, nearly two-thirds of full-time workers are dealing with burnout at some point while at work. [link to source]
I’m not ashamed to admit that as soon as lockdown began, I found myself to be a little frantic and a little nervous about how I should be spending my new found extra time; in spite of my privileged position. When I was furloughed I knew immediately that I would have to be productive in some way. However I realised that I was also desperate to find a way to create space in my life where I could just stay still.
I’d just like to point out that chaos doesn’t always point to screaming in despair or panic on the streets, chaos can be quiet and insidious. Chaos is defined as complete disorder and confusion and to some people that could be inflicted by a mere change in daily routine. I suppose you could argue that one man’s calm is another’s chaos.
So I set about to find balance, because as much as I knew I needed that stillness and time to breathe, I also knew that I would need to set goals and keep myself busy. As you can probably tell, I’m not very good at relinquishing control. I like lists, data and pats on the head to make sure I know I am doing a measurably good job at things. Thanks to years of dealing with Imposter Syndrome, I’m quite a nervous nelly. Nervous of change and apprehensive of new things that challenge my routine. That being said lockdown has certainly thrown me into the deep end of challenging things that would usually send me into a tailspin.
To create balance I looked at two things I felt I valued most – time and value. I asked myself; how could I split up my time in order for me to create quality and fulfillment. Filling in a timetable was easy enough, the busier the better and soon I was back to my old ways of biting off more than I could chew and was standing stagnant in perfectionist limbo, also known as; letting perfection stand in the way of good.
I wasn’t about to allow perfection to stay in the way of good for the hundredth time. So I edited out the ‘stuff’, which was painful to do, but nevertheless was a compelling exercise in looking inward at what ‘the self’ truly wanted to gain. Turns out, it wasn’t ‘x amount’ off on the scales or ‘running x amount of miles’ under my teeny tiny size two feet. These actions were byproducts to something much more valuable that I desperately wanted to improve; better health, a rested body and clear mind. These three things became my pillars, signposting me to evaluate how much I could give to something, be it a task, a project or a routine. The best part? I could measure it.
I decided to set the intention that I would go for my runs, track my diet and keep myself busy but as soon as any one of these pillars were in jeopardy I would take stock and re-evaluate. This meant that for the first time in my adult life I began putting my wants and needs in front of achieving my tick list.
I am unlearning a lifetime of bad habits that have no doubt been reinforced by my hectic work schedule. For example; eating, or most likely not eating at my desk, sitting still for the majority of the day, bad posture, poor sleep quality and poor diet.
The issue I had to overcome is the association of being still with being lazy. Infact what I’ve learned is that actually laziness is something we need in order to allow our lives to catch up with us. Once I dedicated myself to finding the time to do nothing, my productivity in the areas I wanted to improve skyrocketed, because what a treat it is to lounge. How decedent is it to give yourself permission to be in your own company.
From finding pockets of time to do nothing with, I have been able to ruminate and meditate, healing old wounds and finding new bruises to soothe. I’ve learnt that by listening to my natural eb and flow of energies I am able to be way more productive than I have been before. I have had the focus and drive to improve things that I’ve never attributed importance to.
This is the longest I’ve not worked a 9-5 in my entire working life and although I miss the perks of working and all the sociable things that lockdown has taken away I am eternally grateful for the time it has given me to re-prioritise myself. That’s not to say that I take what is happening outside these four walls lightly and it goes without saying that I am deeply saddened by the tragedy we as a world are facing. I miss my family beyond measure and my friends equally and I worry endlessly about my loved ones on the front line. But, I have to believe that somewhere in this there is hope and that this new found self worth will allow for us as a society to change the daily grind.
Improving the work-life balance is in need of urgent attention. The way we were working before is unsustainable and we can’t be in perpetual recovery from burnout, not now we know how it feels to be rested.