We all need a timeout
It’s been a hell of a last twelve months, and as someone who manages people I have seen first hand what a year of the extra pressure that the pandemic has brought to us has done to people. I have supervisory responsibility for about sixty people. Which quite honestly has meant sixty different reactions to life in the pandemic. Some people melted down immediately, last April I reached out to ever employee just to check-in, some folks were really struggling and I did what I could. Summer seemed to mellow things out at some level, I think people getting outside had a lot to do with it. But since Christmas the pressure has really been building, people are tired of being under restrictions, the numbers for infections and deaths were rising quickly, the vaccines, which are a light at the end of the tunnel, have not been distributed quickly or efficiently enough, political turmoil has been on the rise. All of this leads to high levels of uncertainty and certainty is something that makes people feel safe. When people don’t feel safe they are like the proverbial cat on a hot tin roof, and they act out in a variety of ways.
I am not immune to this effect. While I personally feel safe and have not been as negatively impacted by COVID as many people have, including those who I supervise it still impacts me. Being responsible for these people, responding to their reactions has made my job incredibly stressful. I’ve lost all of my emotional reserves and as such I’m certainly a bit shorter and snippier than normal. Being stressed out and on edge for a nomad has a simple, single answer — wander. But right now I can’t wander, I can barely even travel to do anything other than stay in a hotel room somewhere, at least not safely. So I’ve been considering wandering in the grander sense, I’ve been exploring new jobs and opportunities. This for me, in itself, is a form of stress relief, and taking action to wander has always been helpful for me. While change makes other people feel less certain about the world, oddly for me, it’s something that makes me feel more comfortable, the definition of a nomad I guess. But that’s the bigger picture, and while helpful to me personally, probably not helpful for those of you reading this post. So what would be helpful?
Take a timeout. Let’s start with what I’m doing. This is for me, a four-day weekend. This is one of the great benefits of working in education, we get a lot of holidays. So I decided that this four-day weekend is a giant time out for me. That means letting all of my responsibilities go for the next four days. Dealing with nothing that stresses me out in any way at all. So ignoring all email, reducing my social media contact, avoiding family and absolutely doing nothing related to work. And the flipside is to do things that make me happy. I’ve been jonesing for Mexican food so I went out and got some takeout from a local restaurant, it added an extra cheat day to my diet this week but it made me feel good. I went online and played the ponies, I’ve been doing some writing, I burned some CDs down to my new MP3 player, I’ve slept in for three straight days. Today I made a big pot of soup, had a lovely big Sunday morning breakfast and bought and read an honest to god paper copy of the NY Times. I even took two days off from working out. In essence, what it has been is a giant deep breath.
So my friends, how do you get a giant deep breath? What does it take for that to happen for you? First of course, it has to be planned, you’ve got to consciously make the effort to create the time. For those of you with families that can be tough, especially if time with family is exactly what you need a deep breath from at this point. If you’re fortunate enough to have an understanding partner, perhaps you can enlist their help in allowing each of you to take a turn getting your deep breath the way you need it. For some of you, that deep breath may mean taking a deep breath with your entire family. If that’s the case then create the space, camp out in the backyard or in your living room, turn off the phones and computers and just get yourself a day or two away from the world. While I was able to find a four-day weekend, a day or even an afternoon or evening might be enough for you. But I think right now my friends, it’s imperative for all of us to take a timeout in order to have happier days. ~ Rev Kane