I’m just gonna say it straight up; today I felt completely unmotivated and exhausted.
And after some thinking, a cup of tea and some quiet time, I think I’ve nailed why: not knowing what your weekend is going to look like is super stressful.
I'm not talking about not having plans made for the weekend, or wondering about which café your going to go to with a friend for brunch. No, I’m talking about when you don’t know what you are going to physically (legally) be able to do on the weekend. When the choice is actually out of your control. And it's been highlighted to me, coming into this "snap lock down" (3.0 for Melbourne!), that it is exhausting trying to mentally compute how the next day & week is going to look like; let alone the next month.
But why? It's because deep down, we like a bit of order; or to put it another way... We naturally like to be in control.
The reason we make plans, in one sense, is so that we don’t have to think about what is coming up next; we can free up mental capacity if we can go into "auto-pilot" instead of working out a new move (similarly to why we instinctively label people).
It’s why meal planning works so well (when we actually do it!). When you have a meal plan, you free up mental real estate; in your head you can say "it doesn’t matter if I can’t remember what we having for dinner, because I know it's worked out; I don’t have to think about it any longer.". It means when you come to 4:30 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon, without any mental real estate, dinner is made. You just have to "do"; you don’t have to think & do.
In the same way, we made plans to make life ordered for us; so we have to think less & make fewer decisions about what we’re doing moment to moment. When we have a plan, it’s like that section of time is blocked out and no longer up for grabs for rearranging & thinking about. For example, if you have an appointment or a class to attend, you automatically know you cannot schedule anything else in that time; it’s accounted for. Once you’ve acknowledged that, you can move on and use your your mental capacity for other things!
Now when there is uncertainty around those plans; when you have uncertainty around what you can & can't do, instead of having one certain path ahead of you, it’s like the end of the rope has a frayed and there’s so many possibilities that you. And instinctively, your brain wants to think and consider ALL those possibilities. And when you start thinking about all of these possibilities, all these different parts that may play out without being able to discount or delete some of them; it becomes really mentally challenging. So we’re sitting here, on a Tuesday evening, and don’t know whether or not on Thursday we will be allowed to go clothes shopping to to a restaurant: it may happen it may not! And after a LOT of mental capacity completely "wasted" on trying to work out if it will be a "yay!" or a "nay"... I am no closer to knowing much at all or which option is more likely, as it is totally out of my control. (To me, quite a waste of mental capacity, right?).
All of this thinking is constant. If anyone has been in a state of uncertainty, whether it’s lockdown or uncertainty for other reasons, you will know that it is extremely difficult to switch off these trains of thought, these unraveling pieces of rope, that are computing all the time.
So if you get to the end of today, the end of tomorrow or even lunchtime any day, and you feel drained; give yourself some grace. Your brain is working overtime at the moment to try and work out how to make things a little bit more certain with something that is completely out of your control.
So what to do? I would encourage you to focus on things you CAN do; things that are in your control. There are still many things that we are able to do even when so much is out of our control. So plan some of those things that you can do and that you know you can actually achieve. Whether that be a work out at home, a movie night or a few hours sitting with a book or Lego; whatever the things are that you can do and are in your control; put some of those in the diary.
And most of all give yourself grace and extend grace to others. Everyone is living through these times differently, with different difficulties, different challenges, different perspectives and different outlooks on life currently and how it will look like in the future. We need to remember that life isn't "going on as usual" and that there are extra stressors right now that not only impact our physical well-being but also our mental well-being.
So, is today a day that you need to give yourself grace or give someone else around you grace?