What a rude awakening for me! I really thought I was coping quite well with the stay-at-home order. I have worked out of my home office for almost 20 years. My husband and I go out for an occasional dinner or show or movie, but those aren’t frequent things that we do. Much of my work was switched to remote or postponed. All-in-all it didn’t feel like major changes, just small inconveniences. I thought, ‘this isn’t so bad, and I am adapting’. Then, I went downtown to visit my son. It was only a 20-minute drive (due to no traffic) down and back. When I got back from a good visit, I was fatigued and spent the rest of the day on the couch. It was my first trip out of the neighborhood and seeing downtown so empty was sad and shocking – more than I expected. It took me the rest of the day to recover. I realized that I had lost some of my capability to deal with the day-to-day stuff that life throws at you.
We all have a finite amount of emotional energy or headspace. The virus, and its impact, is a change – for all of us and it is robbing us of headspace. There doesn’t even have to be an emergency or a dire situation. As I discovered, thoughts of the virus are always with me. It, and thoughts about it, hang out, just outside of my peripheral vision, off my right shoulder. It is easy to try to pretend it isn’t there, but if I turn my eyes I can ‘see it’. It is making me a hyper-vigilant – looking for people who aren’t respecting social distancing or masking. Instead of seeing them as potential acquaintances or friends, my brain is first determining if they are ‘safe’ for me and my family to be around. Fatigue, suspicion, and fear are what come out in me when my headspace gets low – usually manifesting as anger. If I don’t tend to my diminishing headspace, it will get worse. Before long, I am swearing about the newspaper being thrown on my sidewalk vs. my driveway because I must walk 6 more steps. It that moment I have no room to deal with whatever inconvenience life throws at me.
So – is there anything we can do? Here are some ideas for reclaiming some of that lost headspace:
- We must understand and accept, for ourselves and for others, that we ‘aren’t quite as sharp’ as we were before this happened. If it feels like we are somewhat less capable, that is real, we are. Have some patience with yourself and others when things take a little longer to do than before. Getting angry and putting pressure on yourself won’t help and eats up more headspace.
- Write about how you are feeling about the pandemic, your family situation, your work situation, etc. Write about anything you are thinking and anything going in – don’t restrict or filter, just write. And, write down all of what you are feeling! No one is going to read it unless you give it to them – so be brutally honest about how you are feeling. If unexpressed feelings are layered on top of our diminished headspace, that is not a good formula. Every expressed feeling creates headspace and it will also prevent the feelings from building up and overflowing.
- Reach out to other people and speak with them. It is easy right now to feel isolated, alone, and as if you are the only person feeling that way. This isn’t true – most of us are feeling this way. Reaching out via the phone is good and reaching out virtually where you can see each other is even better. I can’t encourage this enough. There really is a fundamental difference with seeing a face, feeling connected, and not feeling that you are in it alone.
- Do something you get lost in. Read a book, go exercise, listen to music – do something that totally absorbs you. This should be something where you must give it your total attention – so that the virus hanging off your right shoulder fades for a little while. This will give your mind a break so that headspace can be reclaimed.
The neat thing about these items is that they are continuous and build on each other. As you reclaim headspace, you reclaim your capability. With that will come creativity and problem solving and ideas on how to continue to cope and adapt with this situation. It will also give you the room to acknowledge where you have already adapted and to begin thinking of how you want things to be moving forward.
Losing our headspace can be a spiral down but it doesn’t have to be. This situation is going to be with us for a while and we can’t just ‘hold our breath’ until it is over. We need our headspace to be available so that we can adapt and create the future vs. feeling at the mercy of the future. Do the mental work to tend to your headspace. Not only will you reclaim some of what you have lost, but you will also be building resilience and capacity for whatever comes up next. Eckert Tolle, the German author said, “The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment. You create a good future by creating a good present.” Create a good present by reclaiming your headspace – and set yourself up for a good future.
How are you doing with your headspace? Let us know how you are reclaiming it and how we can support you in doing so.