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June 10, 2020

Mood Swings and Monotony in Lockdown

Lucy Bishop


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©© GettyImages/fizkes

The past few days I've woken up and thought it was Sunday, only to realize it was a weekday and actually I should really be getting on with work or home schooling. Yes, the monotony of lockdown has finally struck.

When the pandemic kicked off and lockdown began, I didn't really have time to think about how I felt about it all. Sure I was worried, I was anxious. But most of all I was busy.

Too busy to really think about it all. Busy with the kids and making sure they were happy. Busy making phone calls to my parents to check that they were safe. And busy making sure that I was on top of things at work.

Mood Swings and Motivation (or Lack Of)

Now we've settled into a new home schooling and work routine, it should be all good, right? And yet, I feel a bit foggy, tired all the time, and moody! I snipe at the kids and they snipe back. These mood swings are soon followed by feelings of guilt, and worries about being a bad parent.

I'm not sleeping as soundly as normal and nor are the kids (did I say I was tired?) I've also been having strange dreams (normally I don't dream at all) about my teeth falling out, which symbolize anxiety, apparently (and not surprisingly). Even Zoom calls have lost their novelty, especially now we all realize that "Zoom fatigue" is a thing.

The truth is that I've become demotivated. I'm frustrated. I get annoyed at ridiculously small things, like getting my stupid microphone to work during calls, my choppy internet connection, and how messy my home has become.

When I work, I flit from task to task. I find it hard to concentrate on anything for longer than an hour. Similarly, when I started home schooling, we would have the whole day planned out. Now... well, let's just say that I rely on the TV way too much.

What Happened to "Work Mode"?

I'm not a stranger to Working From Home. I used to do it regularly. So I know that I am able to work autonomously. But it's taking more and more effort to be productive.

It's been a long while now since I've seen the inside of an office. And I've begun to really miss it (though not the commute; never the commute). The buzz of other people, the keyboards tap-tapping, the smell of coffee.

Co-workers hustling and bustling back and forth to meetings; interviews being held; new people to meet; shared celebrations, like birthdays or company milestones. All of it puts you in "work mode."

I miss the small things the most. Like asking a colleague a quick question about whether a sentence sounds right, whether I'm using the correct grammar, or what they think of a particular idea I've been mulling over. To do that now, I'd have to arrange a video call with them, which seems like a big effort for such a small thing.

Conversations that we had with our work colleagues have changed now. It feels as though there's less time and opportunity for "spur of the moment" conversations and "ideas chats."

Is Work Home? Or Is Home Work?

All I know is that right now, I'm in a kind of "half-work, half-home" limbo. Now, my office is my home. My home – where I used to relax, play with the kids and watch TV.

Unfortunately I don't have the luxury of a separate home office either. I know others do (I look at their swivelly chairs and extra monitors with envy).

I'm not able to close the office door once I've finished up for the day. And this has really begun to bother me. There's no line drawn between home and work anymore. It's all just a big mish-mash of both.

Home Working Is Here to Stay

Though lockdown is easing for many of us now, the truth is that – for me and I'm sure many others out there – home working is likely here to stay for some time yet.

So, I must accept it. And I need to look at some of the things I can do to keep myself motivated, positive and productive in the long term.

In our article on self-motivation we list a number of the things you can do to keep yourself motivated and engaged. Avoiding procrastination was one of the tips that first leapt out at me. I'm definitely a culprit.

I've tried a few things to stop myself procrastinating. The best thing I've found is tackling the big, scary mammoth tasks first thing in the morning. It's so easy to try and avoid this type of task, and put them off to the last minute.

However, once they're done and dusted, I feel satisfied and proud of myself that I've managed to accomplish something difficult. In other words, it feels good!

I've also put my pride to one side and started asking for more help from my colleagues. In the past, I've tended to avoid doing this, worried that people might see me as a weak or incompetent.

But, if I've learned anything from the lockdown, it's that a problem shared really is a problem halved. Whether that means asking someone to take on one of my tasks, or simply having a chat about things that are stressing me out.

Focusing on the Positives of Lockdown

"Be kind to yourself." It's a phrase I've heard a lot since lockdown began. But it's often difficult when the kids are shouting and screaming, and I have deadlines to meet. And when I feel, well, like a failure.

Things are certainly more chaotic than they were. And, yes, I'm much more tired than I was before. There're my two jobs to contend with after all (full-time home school teacher and full-time editor). Not to mention the daily, anxiety-inducing "breaking news" stories keeping me up at night.

Despite these things, there are positives to focus on. First off, I still have a job. Many of my friends are facing redundancy, have had their hours cut or have lost their jobs. I worry for them and sincerely hope they find new work soon.

Also, no more commute! No more traffic, no more people cutting me up on roundabouts. No more rushing in the morning. Life in lockdown moves at a slower pace. Sure, it can feel monotonous but there's also been more time to enjoy the small things.

I've come to value a hot cup of coffee, a leisurely stroll, and watching the flowers spring up in my garden. I spend more time round the dinner table at mealtimes, sharing jokes with my kids, and watching them learning and laughing.

Lockdown Will Be Over One Day

And as for work, well, the biggest thing I've been thankful for (apart from obviously still having a job), is the routine that it's given me. And the opportunity to think about other things for a while that aren't lockdown or child-related. My job is my own. Something I do all by myself and can be proud of.

Of course I miss my colleagues, but I can still see them in all their pixelated glory. And one day (hopefully soon), I'll be able to sit at a desk with them again, and we'll look back and laugh together about our time in lockdown. Who knows, we may even miss some aspects of it.

If you're struggling with mood swings and monotony in lockdown, share your thoughts and tips on how you've been coping in the Comments section, below.

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3 comments on “Mood Swings and Monotony in Lockdown”

  1. Hi Lucy! Oh yes, I can identify so much with this blog - the parent and work blend has never been more apparent. I feel so much better on the days I finish working prompt at 5.30 and take the children out for a blast of fresh air and walk down our road, pointing out the new rainbows in the windows and waving at our neighbours to encourage some feeling of separation from the working day and evening. Morning work huddles are great and we’ve been sharing out the chairing of these to bring along a short quiz or another light hearted activity to inject some of those human interactions back into the work day. But I’m looking forward to a face to face natter at lunchtime with a colleague when this is all over for sure! Good luck!

  2. Hi Lucy, thank you so much for writing and sharing this piece. You took all the words and feelings right out of my mouth:)). Absolutely resonated with you on this. For myself, the following experiences and learning seemed to help:
    1. Acceptance - the ability to accept the new norm and move on (instead of waiting that it will go away soon as the " soon" is unlikely to be in the next 6 to 9 months at least).
    2. I too do not have a dedicated nice "working place" in the house. But I find that moving the "working place" to different spots in the house from time to time (depending on activities) seemed to give a different perspective of things and have that renewed sense of motivation. For example, working at the patio next to the garden (when I need to write), in the lounge (when having a call with colleagues), at the dining table (when reviewing work of others)
    3. Practice mindfulness meditation. Especially when I feel frustrated and not motivated, taking a short 10 to 15 min to meditate helps to anchor my mind and emotion better and in fact sometimes by getting more in tune with the present I have light bulb moments of new ideas for my projects.
    Hope the above add to the list of ideas for everyone to try on. Stay safe and be well!!

  3. Hi Lucy,

    I woke this morning figure about how to go about my mood... And I came across your article. It’s exactly what I am feeling and what is worse is I don’t even have kids.. but somewhere motivation to do what’s right for me has left my body. But after reading your article and the comments below. I realised it’s really normal to feel the way I am feeling... thank you so much! I am hoping I can pick up from where I left off and move on with my life. Forgive myself, be easy on it and get to work. Thank you so much again!

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