When we decided to go home last March 15 when lockdown in National Capital Region has been announced, never in my wildest dreams have I thought this will take almost a year. I left most of my stuff in the apartment thinking, it will just be two to three- months top scenario. Oooopppsss.
Nine months have passed and here we are.
2020 is even about to end.
What a rollercoaster ride for humanity. And it’s not yet over.
Community quarantines became normal. From Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) to Modified ECQ; from General Community Quarantine (GCQ) to Modified GCQ- different level of impositions in different localities depending on the number of positive COVID cases or the economic impact of business shutdown.
We have been thrown into transition to juggle remote workplaces, and how to navigate information and decision overload. And we still continue to grapple with the best approach to the New Normal.
But how can we move forward to the New Normal when the old norm is even difficult to deal with?
Prior to the global lockdown, we were already overworked. We value excessive working hours and as I noticed, single women are expected to perform more and log in more hours. As the Japanese term say, Karōshi, meaning death by overwork.. Work is necessary not only for economic production but it has even been attached with our own identity. We’re always asked, “where/ what org are you connected now?”
It’s as if working is our measure of success. And I have to admit, I am a workaholic. I’ve been working since I was in my elementary days. I’ve been a part-time working student in college and wokhaholism is ingrained in my body. I was trained and primed for the workplace. The longest time I have done nothing is two weeks. After that, I felt that I have to be back at work since I have to earn my keep . I dread the time I don’t have a steady income.
A lot of people lost their jobs when businesses shutdown and massive lay-off happened. And yet, having a job has become a blessing and also put a toll in our mental health.
This pandemic has been extra difficult. We can no longer seperate our professional and personal lives. Socialization in restaraunts, gyms and parks which in normal times are our ways to destress after work are now forbidden. We are forcely confined in our homes.
I am torn between being anxious of being jobless and being grateful for having an exhausting job in this uncertain times. I have been anxious coming into terms with the job loss (due to redundancy and end of funding) and then going back again to work to cover the resignation of a colleague in another project with a funding.
Work has become my lifeline and it provided me a sense of normalcy and meaning amidst this chaos. Just like everyone on work from home set-up, I have been working and living in the same spaces. I managed for several months to work at the dining table at my cousin’s place. Sometimes, I transfer outside the garden but the burning midday sun will always put me back to the dining table. I had to transfer every meal time. That was also a blessing since I am forced to have a break during meal time.
This year is a different kind of exhaustion. The home is expected to be a refuge these days. But that same space is now an office, a school, a nursery and a semi-prison.
And since there is job insecurity, we tend to overperform. Time has become even more flexible; work begins to bleed into our waking hours and even at night. And we have this feeling of not doing good enough. We are our own critical bosses and we’re comparing our workload, in constant thinking that other colleagues are doing more so I have to do more. Recharging seems impossible and guilt is ovewhelming. There is always a feeling to be “always on”, to be always online and ready to work anytime.
This holiday season, I’ve been trying to “switch off” and gave myself time to have uninterrupted time for meditation and catching up on reading. I’m learning to not feel guilty in taking this break. Sitting still and doing nothing is hard. Meditation takes practice. After all these years of trying to do yoga, I still have a hard time meditating ang clearing my head. There will always some sort of to do list and unfinished household chore going inside my head and it crops up everytime I am doing nothing.
Our personal well-being is still the priority. To avoid burnout, we have to come into grip that by doing nothing, we’re doing something..for our own sanity.
Self-care is never selfish.
Photo credit: Burnout image by Gerd Altmann