Trying to stay busy as a coping mechanism, but trying not to burn out.

Hi hi hello! ?

In Sydney we’re in another lockdown, sadly. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit us hard again and we had a cluster of cases. It gets pretty tiring talking about the pandemic and a lot of things associated with it, and I don’t have big strong opinions about anything right now. I just know we’re trying to get through it, and we’ll be together on the other side. In Australia, the vaccine rollout is embarrassingly poor. I’m seeing a lot of content on social media encouraging people to get vaccinated, and honestly I’d love to, but the fact of the matter is that I can’t even get vaccinated right now because it’s being rolled out by age group, and I’m not in that age group, and I could probably get vaccinated because of existing medical conditions, but there’s a lot of confusing mixed messaging around it right now. Anyway. ???♀?

We’ve been in lockdown for a week, only allowed to go out for essentials and to exercise in groups of 10 or fewer. This is supposed to go on for another week, but I will not be surprised if it doesn’t end up that way and it is extended. It doesn’t seem like we have a handle on the cases and one of the issues is that people are not getting vaccinated quickly enough. Again, I have no strong opinions on this – it’s just what I’m living with at the moment, and what we’re all living with in Australia. The best we can do is to support each other and try to survive. We have come this far already. ?

Something that I’ve been trying to do is to write down three things a day – some intentions, if you will. It’s something that I used to do some time ago to maintain productivity and keep myself focused on priorities and things that are important. In 2017 I wrote an article called Do just one thing today. for a blog called Human in the Machine, and in that article I described how doing one thing a day can change your mindset towards having a shopping list of to-dos. In my opinion, it is a healthier way of approaching what you need to do. We get so bogged down in to-do lists and what needs doing, that sometimes we forget how to prioritise, and instead our time is wasted procrastinating.

The reason I like the three intentions every day is because they can be big or small. Rather than factor in habitual things or routine things as not being “tasks”, I include them anyway. We’re currently surviving a global pandemic. Many of us have been in a mental health struggle for months. Sometimes we can’t get out of bed. Adding something like taking out the trash or doing the laundry to the list, and then achieving it, is still progress.

I’ve been trying to do three small things every day to keep myself busy. I was pretty upset when the lockdown was announced. It felt like a letdown. It felt quite upsetting and there was a very real feeling of a loss of control. I actually had a couple of very stressful weeks at work recently. I’m not proud to admit that I worked late nights to 9:00pm on some days, and created a stressful situation for myself because I was anxious about a deadline that I didn’t need to be that worried about. This lockdown came at a shitty time for me because I had just started a new workout program with a personal trainer, and at the same time recovering from that burnout by trying to take a day or two off.

An open bagel served with a fried egg on top of one half, sitting on a white plate on a wooden table
I made a breakfast bagel during lockdown, because I can ?

Being in lockdown doesn’t change much for me apart from using a gym. Now gyms are closed, but I can sort of work around it. It just didn’t help given that my new program was to build strength and muscle and having access to a gym is a privilege that makes it a bit easier. I’m introverted and don’t go out much anyway, and I’ve been working from home for 15 months, so it doesn’t change much about my routine and where I go. But I felt sad for the state we’re in. I felt sad about the people around me and the people close to me who were affected more greatly. It felt like a great disappointment, and still felt like we had control and autonomy taken from us.

Although my moods dipped, I wanted to do what was in my control. There are things out of my control, but there are things that I can control, like my environment and the activities and things I do. Writing down a few things a day was my way of keeping busy and reminding myself of what I could control. The balance for me is avoiding burning out. I think that keeping busy is important for me so that I don’t ruminate in negative feelings too much, and during the pandemic that has felt far too easy.

Nick asked me, though, if not allowing myself that time to my negative thoughts means I’m just ignoring them and not really dealing with them. I guess he could have a point. But I guess that’s where I should focus on things to do that make me feel empowered and make me happy, and remind me that things will be alright. It’s a bit of trigger management.

I haven’t been nailing all my three-things-for-the-day, and to be honest, I’m trying to be OK with it. It’s too easy to chide myself for only getting one thing done – like today, I planned to go for a walk, publish a blog post (it’s going to be this one), and clean my bedroom floor. I’ve done, like, one of those things? But the past couple of days, I feel like I didn’t write down three things to do and mainly focused on the best tasks to do at work and focused on being productive there.

I think that sometimes we forget that tasks don’t have to be extremely concrete things. And especially not these ones. ? I think that in the days ahead, I will try to actively focus on some to-dos that are not necessarily concrete or measurable. Because “have a good day” is a perfectly fine one. “Managed my anger” is another one that’s just as good. “Help someone out” is nebulous, but we can all think of an example. “Go for a walk”, for me recently, has not been a giant commitment to exercise. The walk can be of any duration. ?

When we come out of lockdown, I’m not sure if I will stay on with this strategy. It was initially intended as something to get me through, but I think it might have shaped – or even re-shaped – my ability to focus, and my motivation towards what I do, both at work and in my personal leisure time. I want to remain positive and productive and I think that might mean adjusting this three-intentions habit to be something else. We will see. ?

Thanks for tuning into this little life update. I hope that wherever you are in the world, you are safe and well. If you have three intentions for today, I’d love for you to tell me what they are.

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