[Day 16 of #30dayschallenge to post an article everyday for 30 days]
I took a break yesterday from my #30daychallenge.
Instead of pushing through, I went to bed early and slept for almost twelve hours straight.
If you’ve been following my journey, you would know that I take promises very seriously, and I didn’t stop writing even when my laptop died.
So why did I choose to take a break from my self-imposed challenge?
I’m also reflecting on this myself.
But before I do, I thought I’d give some context about what’s been happening around me.
I’m currently living in Victoria (Australia), and our state has been experiencing a resurgence of COVID-19.
This has resulted in restrictions being progressively re-imposed over the last month or so — for the safety of the broader community.
I wouldn’t bore you with all the details, but right now as I write this article, our state government had flagged that we may be moving from stage 3 to stage 4 restrictions.
Of course, what’s been unfolding in our state has also impacted other parts of Australia — for example, border closures, mandatory quarantine for returning residents, delayed shipment of goods, etc.
The same scenario is also playing out in various forms all around the world, and we’re seeing different countries either going back into shutdown, or easing their restrictions.
As the reality of a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic starts to sink in, I’ve noticed many articles cropping up online and on my social media feeds about how this time it feels different.
I thought I’d share some observations and perspectives which I’ve found useful.
COVID-19 impacts each of us differently
It is true that COVID19 does not differentiate. Anyone could have a chance of being infected. It doesn’t matter if you are a celebrity, head of state or top-ranked tennis player.
It is also true though that it has a disproportionate impact on individuals.
Our ability to access life-saving medical help is going to be significantly different depending on which country we live in, and the resources that are available to us.
Some of us are going to have to cope with our loved ones and other people in our circle being diagnosed with COVID-19, having to quarantine ourselves or the death of our loved ones. On the other hand, some of us may believe that COVID-19 is a myth because we don’t personally know anyone who has contracted the virus.
The economic impact to everyday people is also disproportionate. There are sectors (and jobs) which are booming — such as technology, gambling, alcohol and online services. And there are others which are staring down a precipice — such as tourism, airline, cinemas and higher education.
This is further amplifying the inequities inherent in our current systems, to the point where there is no middle ground anymore — we either have jobs or we don’t. Even those of us who still have jobs may be worried about our own job security as the pandemic tsunami continues to create waves.
Because our individual circumstances and predispositions are different, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
In other words, take whatever I have to say next with a grain of salt — you need to judge for yourself whether something would work for you or not.
Prepare for a marathon — not a sprint
When the pandemic first starts to hit our shores in March, I remembered saying to my husband, “You know that this is just the first wave right? There will be many more changes to come.”
We did not have any expectation about how long the first shutdown will be, when things will get back to normal, and our day to day lives didn’t change much. We just adapted and responded accordingly as things unfold.
During the first COVID-19 wave, there seemed to be more enthusiasm and positivity. My facebook feed was filled with people taking up sourdough baking, doing online courses, and other new hobbies.
As we enter lockdown 2.0, I observed that people seem to be more impatient and more easily triggered, myself included — something which I wrote about in my first article as part of my #30daychallenge.
It is important that we pace ourselves and be prepared for the long road ahead.
Look after yourself first
Remember when airlines weren’t grounded and the safety briefings that we watched before each flight.
They always remind us that in the event of an emergency, to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first before we help other people — even our own children.
It is not selfish to look after yourself first — you are no good to anyone if you are depleted.
Get rid of stuff which doesn’t serve you
You need to conserve your energy — so this means getting rid of anything that doesn’t serve you anymore.
This may mean culling back on activities, eliminating or reducing contact with people who de-energise us, or limiting our social media and news intake.
Build up your resilience
I recently heard a podcast that describes resilience as a bank account. We all have a resilience store which gets depleted if we are constantly making withdrawals and no deposits.
There are many practices ranging from mindfulness, eating well and staying in touch with people that you care about, that can help replenish your resilience.
Find your centre and regain balance
So back to why I decided to cut myself some slack with my #30daychallenge.
Yesterday was the end of a very busy week, filled with many unexpected events. Apart from getting my laptop fixed, I also had to sort out some issues with my daughter’s school.
My husband was unexpectedly called into work, and I had to step in to prepare dinner — not my 10-minute lazy-person version, but slow-cooked Chipotle pork ribs which he’d promised my daughter.
Luckily, it turned out nice enough (though not as good as my husband’s version). It was lovely to sit down and enjoy a meal together as a family.
By the time we finished tidying up and stacking everything into the dishwasher, even though it was only 9 o’clock, I was feeling quite exhausted.
I still had one more thing to do — which was to write an article for my #30daychallenge.
I wrestled with whether I should just get it done, or listen to my body.
As I thought about what I should do, I realised how silly my fixation was.
I saw how there’s a part of me that is quite hard on myself, have very high standards and expect 100% — even during a pandemic.
I thought that I’d let go of the perfectionist in me long ago, and here it was, remnants of an old part of me that was still lingering.
Seen from that perspective, I realised that either response would result in some form of “beating up myself”.
If I chose to push through, then I’m beating up my body. If I don’t, then my mind would beat myself up for being a woose.
The right response was not about trying to pick one option over the other, but one that would bring me greater balance — which last night was allowing myself to rest, and not beat myself up.
So here’s the last thing that I want to share with you for now.
Because we are all wired differently, only you would know what the “right” response is for you.
Something to reflect on is to think about whether the balance that you seek can come from doing the opposite of your habitual patterns.
For me, because my habitual pattern is to push myself too hard, finding my balance means practising more self-compassion.
If your habitual pattern is to try to control everything, maybe your balance can be found by letting go of some control.
Choosing our response
We can’t always choose our circumstances but we can choose our response.
In the words of Victor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search For Meaning:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
No matter how dire our circumstances may seem, remember that we always have choices.
Our choices matter.
Let’s choose wisely. Together.