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Dublin: 20 °C Thursday 6 August, 2020
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Have you hit lockdown fatigue? Two wellness practitioners have some advice for you

Wellness experts Margaret Young and Laura Linehan say many of us are experiencing lots of mixed emotions as we emerge from months of lockdown.

Margaret Young & Laura Linehan

We are into the second week of Phase Three and the full emergence of the ‘new normal’. After months of Covid-19 lockdown, many mental health experts believe that this part of the process, the re-emerging, could prove more difficult than the lockdown itself.

All of a sudden, life seems complicated again and we have to negotiate our lives within the parameters of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here, as part of our ongoing series at TheJournal.ie, two wellness practitioners working in different areas offer some advice to guide you through the changes. Laura Linehan is a Life and Executive Coach and Margaret Young is a yoga teacher and wellness practitioner:

Margaret Young

ARE YOU REJOICING the slow rolling out of lockdown and reopening of society or feeling fearful, apprehensive and just not ready for it? Or a mixture of all? I would say that is normal.

Covid-19 continues to have a devastating impact on human life on our entire planet, and for those of us who have lost love ones to it, life is changed irrevocably, even if a cure or vaccine was discovered tomorrow.

No one can ever say that Covid-19 has a positive side, but considering lockdown as a separate entity, it did have some positives, for some of us. It gave a lot of us time, and space that we would never have given ourselves or had an opportunity to give ourselves.

Before we rush forward to get back to our conventional routines, why not decide what you want to keep in your life, the controllable factors that are in our power when so much is not:

  1. Review 

March to June has become a bit of a blur for us all so, go back and review what you did with your spare time. Likely there are going to be some patterns and habits here you might like to continue, and some you’d like to drop. The first task is to identify them. 

Take a look back on any records you kept since March, so an online calendar, written diary, or journal, or even your bank transactions. If that doesn’t shed much light, try looking back through your social media history.

Then think about at least five things you are grateful for from lockdown. Could be that you enjoyed walks listening to podcasts, you did a lot of baking or crafts with the kids, you got to watch multiple series on Netflix, or you cleaned out a load of wardrobes.

Then think about what you want to bring forward into the next phases with you. Not the next phase of reopening, the next phase of your life.

Some aspects might be really obvious, like the thoughts of returning to a long commute to and from work is just so horrifying now it’s making you rethink your whole career or investigate working from home or using a coworking space as a permanent fixture.

Possibly you have taken up a new hobby that you didn’t have time to explore before, like yoga or sea swimming, and you want to find ways to integrate it into your schedule on a long-term basis. 

  1. Say no

If you are any way anxious about going out and about in public, apart from certain obligations, for example, if you work in retail, or are shopping for an elderly relative, remember you can say no.

Just because you have been invited on a girls/boys night out, it doesn’t mean you can’t decline. Just because your hairdresser has opened up, it doesn’t mean you have to go right away.

Maybe you have been happily tinting your own brows or doing your nails, you don’t HAVE to go back to getting things done professionally. If you feel bad not supporting a small business, then purchase products from them or buy yourself a gift voucher for when you are comfortable going back. Give yourself permission to say no.

  1. The badge of busyness

Perhaps you are not unduly worried about catching Covid-19 at all, but you have felt a sense of relief these last few months from not having to be BUSY busy busy all the time, and you don’t want to go back to it.

The thoughts of that business are exhausting. Being ultra-busy is a habit that a lot of us had fallen into. Busy, full schedules, back to back commitments and social activities. 

How strange it felt when all of that was stripped away. Is there a part of you that secretly began to enjoy it? Did you realise you were saying yes to things you really didn’t want to do?

Were you doing things out of habit, societal, or familial expectation? Be really honest with yourself. Are you going to revert to making the same mistakes and old patterns based on other people’s expectations? 

  1. Say yes

Saying no creates space and the opportunity to say yes. Yes to what you want to do. Yes to things that you might have afraid to do before lockdown. Participate in virtual meetings, home school, baking.

I was in the middle of in-person yoga teacher training when lockdown happened, and the idea of taking a class much less teaching a yoga class over zoom was terrifying. Fear of the unknown! Now it’s the only way I have taught so far, and I will be keeping it going even now that there are outdoor yoga classes and studio classes happening again.

What do you want to yes to when society reopens? Yes to working out at home? Yes to more time in nature? Yes to doing your own thing? You decide – the power is in our hands. If nothing else, Covid-19 taught us that.

 

Laura Linehan

As we re-emerge from lockdown, people are planning for a better post-lockdown life. They want to make changes to their lives, with the new perspective they have gained from time in isolation.

Being motivated to make these changes is fantastic, but it’s important to examine how you have been motivating yourself over the past few months. Make sure your thought processes reflect your best self and steer away from the fear-based motivation you may have gotten accustomed to during this global crisis.

Motivation

Motivation is essentially working towards goals. In lockdown, it was much harder to plan ahead. With a changing economic climate and the closure of normal life, both our goals and accountability structures changed. We had to adapt to a new way to live, work, and for many people – homeschool, all within the same four walls.

At the start of lockdown, some people got a surge of adrenaline and their productivity was bolstered. Some were temporarily numbed with a sense of disbelief that it would continue, so they trucked on.

Some were relieved to get a break from the pace of the life they had been living, so they felt calmer. Then, as the lockdown continued and there was no definitive end in sight, at some stage, almost all people hit a motivation slump.

How you have handled these setbacks, and how you are planning for your future will be in part down to your default mode of motivation. We are, in general, automatically motivated to maximise pleasure and reduce discomfort.

In a global pandemic where stress, uncertainty, and worry were inevitable, it only seems natural that people sought out easy wins, like wine and chocolate and goggle-worthy box sets. If you found yourself waking up on the couch at 3 am with one arm elbow-deep in a family-sized packet of crisps, you’re in plenty of company.

Approach vs. avoidance

Your experience of motivation will be very different depending on whether you have an approach or avoidance default motivation system. Based on Jeffrey Gray’s biopsychological theory of personality, people can be motivated in two ways – they operate from a Behaviour Activation System (BAS) or a Behaviour Inhibition System (BIS).

This means that whether you are viewing your goals from an approach or avoidance mindset will have an impact on your inner dialogue and emotions. Since emotions and motivations are intrinsically linked, changing your mindset starts with changing your thoughts around your goal.

If you’re high in BAS responses, your inner dialogue sounds something like “I am so curious to learn how I can become happier in my career – this is my life and I want to make sure I make it as positive and impactful as possible so I’ll put in some time to learn new skills and I’ll practice them because I will feel so much happier knowing I’m learning and growing.”

Avoiders are motivated by a threat of punishment (avoiding the pain of “getting it wrong”). Avoiders tend to worry, ruminate and think about the negative consequences of events. If you’re high in BIS response your inner dialogue might sound something like “I really don’t want to screw up this project, it would be so embarrassing and everyone will think I’m a failure so I better put in some time working on it today so I don’t make a fool of myself.”

As you can see, the BIS system is a lot more fear-driven, and the BAS is a lot more growth-centred. There has been a lot of research by Carole Dweck on growth mindset which supports the idea that approachers tend to get better results, and avoiders tend to perform worse in the long term. Why?

Because avoiders are reactive, fearful and generally allow a harsh inner critic to keep them small, it’s easy to understand how this mode isn’t sustainable for long term happiness and productivity.

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What can you do to step out of fear and into a growth mindset?

It’s important to note that it isn’t categorical – you don’t just fit into one box and that’s it. Over time, you may have come into more of a BIS default mode network. You might have spent a lot of time in lockdown worrying about friends, family, finance, and the uncertainty of the future.

It’s so human and it’s important to soothe and be kind to those fears, they are trying to protect you in their own way. We need the BIS mode, otherwise, we wouldn’t learn to touch fire or to look both ways before crossing the road.

But where it becomes problematic is if you stay in BIS mode and operate from there automatically which can become a state of chronic stress. Moving towards a BAS mode is like building a muscle – it takes awareness, practice and consistency.

Learning to become more authentic and knowing what is important for you takes effort. Once you become focused on the ways you would like to grow, you can then put actions in place so you are building a life you want, and not just living small because your fear keeps saying… “What if I fail..?”

As we emerge out of lockdown, now is the time to reflect on what matters to you most, who you want to show up as in your life, and how you can begin small consistent steps towards your goals.

Many people don’t want to return to the “old normal” where they were too busy to enjoy their lives, so now is the time to make a clear action plan for moving forward, and to motivate yourself in a way that is thoughtful, kind and purposeful to you.

Margaret Young is a vinyasa yoga teacher and wellness entrepreneur based in Dublin. She writes for her blog WildSoul.ie as has written wellness articles for Evoke.ie, Image.ie and The Irish Times. Find her at www.wildsoul.ie, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Laura Linehan is a Life and Executive Coach in Dublin. She works with people to help them make changes in their life and career so they can be more authentic, have better relationships, and create a life that is more their own. Learn more on: www.naturalbalancecoaching.ie.

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Margaret Young & Laura Linehan

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