Relax, it’s not what you’re thinking.
Although, it’s disheartening to hear of so many separations happening in my life. I guess it’s my age and to be expected when my friends, families and peers have reached a point in lives where their children have grown and left home and they face new realities about the next phase of life. Pretty much all of who I know, are now separated and divorced, exacerbated by these crazy times. I don’t begrudge them at all to want to focus on what they want and live their best life from now on.
However that’s not the separation I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the separation between work and home/leisure. The boundaries between work and play.
I’ve never been one to separate these thinking it was a matter of “work life balance” but balance usually meant integrating one or the other (usually work into my home life). To some, they want it no other way however, I found out that in order for me to function properly (and I’m talking mentally), I needed the boundaries.
Most of the time, I’m a person who’s in her own head most of the time. I like to focus and concentrate on the task at hand and can work best when I dedicate time to it. If someone distracts me (usually my husband asking me to “check a funny video that popped up in his social media feed; or ask me to come and see something on TV or listen to the latest SlipKnot song), I’m not going to lie, it gets me a little crazy on the inside because I can’t recover to get back into “flow” again.
This flow state is important for my mental health and well being.
I reach flow state a lot in my work when I’m left in silence, undistracted, by myself – and when I’m enjoying the task. If the task involves writing, or some creative elements then I get into it quite quickly. I am not one of these people who can have distractions and still be in flow. I wish I could, but I can’t.
In recent times, I’ve had to come to terms with this and realise my optimal way of working and learning and that is to get to this “flow” state as much as possible because the most work – the most creative work – happens when I’m in that state.
However, also in recent times, there’s many distractions that have thwarted me from getting to this state and as each day passes, I get agitated – not with my lack of progress (that I can handle) – but the idea that what I’m putting out is uncreative, unimaginative, rote, boring and bland.
I hate to think of the work I’m outputting as bland. It’s the ultimate insult for me and such a cop out.
The Lockdown Feels
In the last week, ever since lockdown 4.0 was announced (the worst in the series), I’ve not been myself again as I’ve allowed myself to get distracted by my own thoughts, getting into my own head, and then bitching and moaning on social media.
I like to say that it’s cathartic to vent on social media but let’s call it for what it is, it’s a cop out for not having tactics to deal with externalities that disrupt and interrupt my mental state.
On the upside, it’s not as bad as Lockdown 2.0 where I had to radically rethink and change my perspective with a lot of things and where I started to do qigong (meditative movement like Tai Chi) and set clear boundaries on how I structured my life and work; who I decided to stay in or get out of my life.
Lockdown 4.0 yes, is REALLY frustrating but it hasn’t been as heavy for me. I’m more angry at our government but these things are simply out of our control.
It got me thinking that in times like this, at stressful times, we need to get out of our head. It’s the WORST place to be and we need to start thinking about helping others.
It’s the only way to start to SEPARATE what is happening externally to what is happening internally. By removing the focus away from yourself, you’re in a better position to cope with situations.
I’m reading a book about Germans in World War II in the Eastern Front at near close of World War II and it’s a pretty depressive and harrowing read. They were spent, defeated and exhausted with their leaders who promised empty promises of a future vision of Germany. They had reached a point of utter exhaustion waiting for the Russians to decimate them completely, and where they would take themselves to a nearby tree and shoot their brains out rather than face the destitution, drudgery and starvation. As I read this, I think “governments never learn; people always cop it for their selfish actions, ego and power.”
I can only read little bits at a time.
It got me thinking that the reason why I’m angry and frustrated this time is that people aren’t looking outside themselves at this time of this global pandemic.
We’re all still squabbling about our individual impacts to our lives rather than working together and making the sacrifices to overcome it. Federal governments with state governments; state governments against state governments; businesses against workers; families against state government; workers against each other; family and friends against each other; all exacerbated by the spin in the news media.
Isn’t this a time when we should all be working together?
What Can I Do?
So I got to thinking, “what can I do to help?” If this was a war situation, I’d have volunteer in some war to help a. However, the only thing we can do is to lay low now and follow the rules to minimise the spread of the virus. Pretty small ask and preferable over doing the former.
I need to find a way to separate mentally and yet still be part of the overall solution.
My husband has taught me a lot about dealing with emotions and not letting me sink inside myself. He’s a great separator. He has the knack of being able to clearly delineate between work and play – and never the twain shall meet.
When he comes home from work, all work problems stay at work. He never does any work outside of work hours; nor does he speak about it. To him work is work; home is home. Throughout the pandemic, he’s been going into the office as he’s considered an essential worker and prefers to do this. Even though he works from home two days a week, that was only under direction and he assures me, he will return to the office as soon as he can.
Looking at how he has set up his boundaries to separate aspects of his life made me reconsider this “work life balance”. To me, it was always unbalanced because work simply infiltrated my life. It’s the reason why I decided to only work three days a week because I needed to get in touch with my own self – be my own self – for the rest of them so that I could do my best work for them.
Putting separators into your life between “work” and “play” has been instrumental for me because it allowed me to make that mental separation from external factors impacting my mental state. It adds that element of control and hold things and people at arms length while you can go into your own ‘flow’ state – a place where you feel most creative, inspired, unbounded, undistracted, and at rest.
If doing a 9 to 5 job gives you these feelings then you are one of the lucky ones; if not, you have to find ways to get to this zone in some way.
Putting up separations and boundaries – whether physical or mental or time based – is just one small way of doing this.
Putting them up at a time of extreme frustration, anxiety and stress I believe is also needed but the link is also finding a way where you’re not inside your own head but contributing, helping and supporting others too. That’s the balance right there for my own health and well being.