Let me start by saying this – during lockdown I have not made a banana bread, sourdough bread or learnt to speak Spanish. I haven’t taken up any musical instruments, started doing yoga or walked 25 miles a day.
But neither have I been working 18 hour days (it does beg the question what have I been doing?!)
When lockdown started, I actually felt quite focused. I had a list on my whiteboard of all the books I was going to read and the exciting things I would do each day, and things started well. I was motivated to use the time wisely and do all the things I have been meaning to do but never had the time.
12 weeks in and the reality is that I haven’t read half the books I intended to. The positive mindset I started lockdown with has slowly disappeared leaving me de-motivated and increasingly exhausted.
I thought I must be the only person feeling this way as those around me seem to have settled into what is being described as “the new normal”. Then I read a LinkedIn article by the brilliant American Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy. She talked about starting lockdown feeling “energised and focused” but is now feeling “tired and irritable”.
Thanks goodness – someone else feeling the way I do!
Cuddy’s LinkedIn article went on to explain the 3 psychological phases of a crisis. The second phase is regression as we realise the future is uncertain and we can lose our purpose, feeling less productive. This is exactly how I was feeling. I am not someone that deals well with uncertainty and I am an avid planner, loving nothing more than a little diary planning.
The initial buzz and, dare I say excitement, at having a new challenge has now disappeared and I am left feeling exhausted by the unknown. What will my business look like in 6 months time? How will clients adapt to remote workshops? How will I cope without the people interaction that is the best part of my job?
Seeing Cuddy’s 3 phases and her post that most of us are at stage 2 really helped me to understand how I am feeling at the moment.
So, what to do about this? Well, as a coach, I started to ask myself a few questions. What pressure am I putting on myself to move to the recovery stage (Cuddy’s phase 3)? What would help me feel more productive right now? And one of the key questions, what would happen if I just took some time out for me?
When coaching others, I often talk about being kind to ourselves but it seems I’m not good at following my own advice. Whilst I definitely haven’t been working as hard as usual, I also haven’t had a day off since all this started (I was due to be away on holiday last week but obviously didn’t go anywhere).
Like many self-employed people, I tend to feel guilty if I am not working. But why is this? If I have completed my work, why not have a day off or an early finish?
All of this has made me reflect on what happens next. As we do start to move to the recovery phase, what do I want that to look like? Part of my self-coaching process now is to think about the parts of my job that I love and think about how can I do more of them. Do I need to go back to working the long hours of pre-lockdown days or can I get a better work-life balance?
My self-coaching reflections have lead me to the conclusion that I actually quite like the simpler life that lockdown has imposed on me. I do this job because I love helping others to learn and develop. But I can only do that if I take time to look after myself.
This is all a work in progress and I still have lots to learn from the lockdown experience. For now, I am grateful to Amy Cuddy for showing me that it is ok to not be ok right now and I’m taking this time for some self-reflection.
Who’s with me?