In lots of ways, the biggest challenge I’ve found during the pandemic has been the sheer relentlessness of things: get up, get dressed, make coffee, check emails, do work, do some meetings, do some more work, make some calls, eat, do some more work, another coffee, put the laptop away, eat, watch some telly, go to bed, start over the following day.
As a single parent, my duties also include homeschooling, so since the start of this year, that Groundhog Day has included: get my children ready for the day, lesson planning, lesson teaching, educational and emotional support, making food, making snacks, juggling meetings and long zoom calls with questions from both my clients and my children (sometimes at the same time, often with similar levels of importance ranging from very to not at all), and so on.
And then of course at this time of year, there’s also all of those pesky ’New Years resolutions’, the self-assessment tax return, the “plans for the year ahead” (without really know what the year ahead might look like).
Oomph. It’s a lot.
Generally I’ll come back after the holiday break with a renewed sense of energy and optimism for what’s to come, but I can’t help feeling the same as I did in October: “just hold on until Christmas, and you’ll get a break!”, whilst at the same time, tell myself off for feeling tired or overwhelmed, and not doing as much as I feel like I could be.
The regular recommended advice is “take some rest, do things which are for you, eat well, sleep better” - and as much as I preach this to others, actually doing it isn’t as simple - and endless articles or suggestions from media, friends and netrworks which suggest overly simplistic positive actions or prescribe a positive mindset, so called “toxic positivity” - often blindly ignore the underlying feelings or challenges an individual is facing.
"Had a bad day at work? At least you’re working!"
"Complaining about being locked-down? How wonderful you have a home!"
"Finding it hard? You’re healthy - focus on the positives!"
These sort of responses, no matter how well intentioned, can seem to reduce individuals emotional experience to meaningless in comparison - and rather than taking the time to listen, they position the feelings as ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’.
Being sad or tired, feeling challenged or exhausted, upset, scared, worried, confused - these are all part of the human experience. To not feel those emotions, in the face of such an unusual and overwhelming situation, would be more worrying. Emotions give us valuable information on situations, and provide us with support for decision making and how to take action.
Recognising and acknowledging all sorts of feelings, those which are seen as positive and negative, is an essential part of life - the Pixar movie “Inside Out” explains it beautifully, when Sadness and Joy realise one cannot exist without the other.
As the year continues - I’m trying to balance acknowledging how I’m feeling, with a pragmatic sense of what I can do to change things for the better, whilst giving myself space for the things I can’t, actually helps me feel better.