After 6 months of COVID working from home, I had my first full week back in the world of people. Real live, in the same room as other people, work. I was excited about training in person again and meeting all the awesome participants, and I loved it! Big smiles. #lovemyjob And, I was overwhelmed. So. Much. Peopling! (I know it’s not a verb but I like to use it as one)
By Monday afternoon I had a headache and it didn’t go until Friday.
What the heck happened?
Disclosure: I used to get “performance headaches” in the past. By this I mean if there was a big meeting, an all-day training, etc. I would get a headache from “being on” all the time. It wasn’t necessary and was mostly driven by my perfectionist tendencies.
But a few years ago, I learned a tension-free way of being on: the lazy, relaxed way to be fully present but minus the tension headache.
Even though I’m an introvert, I can people all day long, all week long, and no headache. Just the good tired you get from having worked and done a good job.
Yet 6 months of hermiting and wham! The headache is back. And I was exhausted. I haven’t been this tired since I was doing nighttime feeds with my youngest baby.
Wednesday evening, as I lay with my head on the dining table, my husband encouraged me:
“Let go of your saboteurs. You’re doing a great job.”
But it wasn’t my saboteurs getting me down or wearing me out. I had nothing in my head, it was empty. Drained.
So why am I telling you this?
I know I’m not alone.
Some kind of overwhelmed and tiring change is happening for many of us. It might not be peopling that’s getting to you, but something is.
Now that we’re at the end of summer, lots of people are returning to being with other people more often. Either you’re going back to the office a few days a week, or there are more social or work events happening. In some way or another, our day to day routine is changing again.
For me, all the stimulation from other people was prickling my senses and overloading me. It was overwhelming. It was like my bubble that helped me protect my energy seemed to have disappeared. It must have faded away due to lack of use. I didn’t need it when the only people I saw were my immediate family and other people for a short time at the supermarket.
So there is a good chance that you have experienced something similar too, or you will very soon. As you adjust again to the latest changes, you’ll experience at least a small level of overwhelm: anywhere from a “foooo what a day” to “I’m going to hibernate now”.
Which leads me to…
Normalising and perspective
I could easily have let this freak me out. I could have let my saboteurs in to beat me up about how I couldn’t cope, and how I should be able to handle this.
I could berate myself for “letting myself go” or tell myself in pseudo encouragement to “get over myself and just do better”.
I could get frustrated at myself, or others around me who are finding it hard to do simple things.
But I didn’t. Because of course it was hard.
The first week of school. First week in a new job. First week of… anything. They are all tiring. It’s normal to be overwhelmed.
Doing something new is tiring.
What’s also tiring? Doing something you haven’t done for a while, like for six months. Even though you know how to do it, you’re out of practice. You’re not match ready.
Change takes effort. It takes energy to change. I talk about why this is and what you can do about it in my post
DECISION FATIGUE – IT’S HAPPENING TO US ALL.
Feeling guilty about it, or berating ourselves, or expecting ourselves to “do better” doesn’t help.
So in this context, in this COVID-time when we don’t know what the future will hold, where we’re out of practice with everyday things like being with other people, it’s perfectly normal to find these activities overwhelming. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed, but it’s about shifting your perspective to “It’s normal” to open up options to do something constructive about it.
So what helps?
Give yourself a break. Factor in this extra energy drain when you set your expectations: be realistic.
Look at your needs. What do you need to have wellness? (a key tip on how to do this is coming in next week’s post)
Take care of those needs – even the smallest action will bring you benefits. You don’t need to take a 2 week holiday.
What did I do? (i.e. am I just giving advice or do I actually do it myself too?)
I recharge when I am by myself, or when I am coaching.
I went to bed at 8:30 on Wednesday evening. I rested by listening to an audiobook (it’s a book I already read so I didn’t mind if my mind drifted). When I didn’t want to listen anymore, I switched off my book and slept.
It was enough to allow me to deliver great training on Thursday.
On Friday, I coached all day. This is the kind of peopling that gives me tons of energy. And I’ve been doing it online for years so I also didn’t need to commute or venture out into the world physically. I could be there for my clients from the comfort of my home. By the end of the day I had recharged a lot. #lovemyjob
Looking beyond the current moment.
I’m still a little tired. These actions helped me get back on track, but I need more replenishment. So I’ve planned my next day off – to do energy-giving activities (i.e. be by myself doing things I like).
What changes in routine are you experiencing? What’s the surprising thing that is harder than it should be? How are you taking care of yourself?
Let me know. We can chill together and recover.
And by chill together I mean me at my place, you at yours because I’m done with peopling for a couple of days.
This is part of my Thought Piece Series where I explore topics related to leadership and provide both answers and questions. My intention is to start meaningful conversations that help us move forward. Today we’re talking about procrastination.