I’ve had a few conversations with people in recent weeks in which we quietly admit to each other that we are actually feeling much better and happier in the new normal of staying at home, Meeting by video, and long hours of solitude.
In Facebook groups, I’ve noticed that each time someone posts this sentiment, about half of the comments reveal there are others out there who also admit, I thought I was the only one! … I have more energy … I can hear myself think. Like me, they feel calmer and much more focused, both while working and during their personal time.
Then the other half of commenters will share they are very much not okay, their Anxiety is through the roof, and they imply there’s something wrong with those of us who aren’t climbing the walls or utterly exhausted by video chats and conference calls.
In preparation for discussing this topic in the coming week, I thought I would look online for the perfect Article to express myself and describe what I’ve experienced.
Only I didn’t see those articles.
I realize there are a lot of people facing very difficult situations. And I don’t want to ignore that. I have friends and colleagues in healthcare. I’m well aware of the emotions and terrible situations doctors, nurses, essential workers, and immuno-compromised and ill people are facing. The fear and terror out there is very real.
I am speaking to those of us not facing those questions, whose family has not been gravely ill and who still have safe jobs and can work from home.
I was looking for articles about this group of people.
Some people do feel better staying at home
For those working from home, I saw tons of articles about how to be happy and how to stay calm and how to cope during pandemic or quarantine.
I thought I would easily find articles about people who have finally felt relief while working. I thought more people online would be talking about the renewed peace and energy and time to spend on ourselves that we’ve discovered.
A peace that we could never seem to grasp hold of in the busyness of commuting and interacting in person with all the extroverts in the world spilling their frenetic people-embracing energy all over the place.
It took some digging, but I found that a few others have noticed this, too.
Some experiencing a lockdown paradox
The headline of the first post I found is along the lines of what I’m experiencing: The Lockdown Paradox: Why Some People’s Anxiety is Improving During the Crisis.
Writer Dr. Farrah Jarral asks if ‘normal’ life might have been making some people ill. He’s talking about those who can work from a safe and secure home environment. I think he makes a good point.
For some people, certain factors like more time to sleep, more time with pets or loved ones, and “not having to deal with the overstimulation of life in the outside world, have led to a greater sense of general well-being.” I would add less time spent in chitchat and fewer workplace interruptions as contributing factors.
Some reasons people actually feel better
I already linked to Dr. Jonice Webb’s article in a previous post. It came to mind when I began my search. Surely if one psychologist had written about this then others would, too.
Dr. Webb actually lists 7 types of people who may currently be feeling better right now.
From those who suffered childhood difficulties to those who have finally found themselves in the midst of the perennially expected big disaster they’ve feared their whole lives, there are quite a few reasons that some people are not spiraling into anxiety and depression in the current reality.
Some anxiety sufferers feel better now
One of the types of people in Dr. Webb’s article, people whose past experiences may have conditioned them for a pandemic, are highlighted in this article at The Daily Beast about how some people have seen their anxiety symptoms improve.
One of the therapists the author interviews shared this point about one of her patients whose anxiety has lifted: “’Finally everyone else has a taste of what his inner world has been like,’ she said. Seeing his inner state mirrored by the outside world, Visceglia posits, helped shut down self-critical thought patterns and offered some relief.”
I can relate to that.
Some don’t want to leave lockdown
Though more focused on the stress and anxiety of lockdown, Vicky Spratt in Why I’m Not Sure I Want to Leave Lockdown does talk to a psychologist who shares that people have found the slowdown during lockdown to be a relief, that people report feeling more grounded.
And that many people are realizing their life before lockdown was more stressful than perhaps they admitted to themselves.
Echoing Dr. Jarral above, Spratt writes, “So-called normal life was already making some people ill.”
Some people feel joy plus guilt
In You’re Allowed to Feel Joy Right Now, a clinical psychologist has also seen clients surprised that they feel fine. Who then feel guilty about it.
Ryan Howes wants us to know we don’t need to feel guilty. “Whatever you’re feeling right now is valid.”
While he gives a list of positive emotions he’s seeing in his own clients, he also acknowledges the difference between true positive feelings and focusing on positive things to avoid acknowledging the fear we may have.
This is helpful since it’s so easy to confuse the two actions. He advises we gently acknowledge the fear we may be trying to pretend isn’t there. Otherwise, it only makes the fear stronger.
Some work spaces need to change
Besides the array of emotions people are feeling personally, there are also the varied reactions we’re all having to working from home with the positives and negatives of that new reality.
And one big question now is when we’ll be compelled/allowed to return to the office.
Probably no surprise, but I am in no hurry to return. The article Even the Pandemic Can’t Kill the Open-Plan Office echoes my thoughts: “What, exactly, is so valuable about working together in the same physical space?”
I was reading just the other day about how the virus was spread across an open-plan office early in the outbreak. My workplace has partial open-plan areas, so the open-plan article caught my eye.
Apparently companies can utilize workspaces differently by staggering everyone’s days in the office, assigning workers to partial office and partial home working, and setting up partial in-person/zoom meetings.
But again, if we can do our work at home, please let us.
Some benefits of working from home
It’s easier to find articles about the benefits of working from home. These benefits have been known for a long time, but companies have been resistant to embrace the practice. Hopefully that will now change.
A recent 2-year study is receiving renewed focus as everyone analyzes the productivity of millions of people unexpectedly working from home. The surprise was how much work from home can boost productivity and improve work for some people.
Besides the positives of quiet, focus, and increased productivity, fewer meetings and less chitchat also happen when everyone works from home. Isn’t that a good thing?
Some people experience Zoom fatigue while others embrace the buffer of video
Another new phrase that has popped onto our radar is “Zoom fatigue.”
In Zoom Fatigue is Real, writer Molly Callahan points out that being on video is exhausting because nonverbal cues are “out the window.” She talks to a behavior analyst who said that using video chat so much left her head spinning.
To this I say, welcome to my world. This is how I feel about in-person meetings.
Video meetings are a piece of cake compared to the overwhelming input of all the nonverbal cues and sensations I pick up in a group face-to-face meeting. Meetings are a full-body bombardment of sound, sight, and sensations. Highly sensitive people understand this.
Talk about the “overstimulation of life in the outside world.” Every day at work.
The buffer of video gives me the space I need to process the incoming data without having my gauges topping out at too much input.
About the effort it takes to communicate over video, Callahan quotes Laura Dudley, “It’s draining to feel like you have to be ‘on’ for the entire meeting.”
Again, welcome to my world. It in fact is draining to feel like you have to be on for an entire meeting. For me, that is how I feel about in-person meetings.
And Callahan states that relying on video calls for work will make them less enjoyable as a relaxing way to stay connected to friends and family. Again, having to talk face to face with workplace colleagues all day makes it more tiring to communicate face to face with friends and family.
Interestingly, Callahan’s solutions for dealing with Zoom fatigue are exactly the ones that those of us who routinely experience in-person meeting fatigue can use to cope with normal everyday life in an office.
Some things to remember
I hope that as our lives are turned upside down, that we can all have empathy and compassion for people whose experiences have always been, and probably even now, are different from ours.
I hope we can see there are some aspects of this new reality that we want to carry into the future – gratitude, taking time to pause, appreciation for solitude, respect for others.
The key will be taking this newfound peace, calm, gratitude, and self-acceptance into the world when we are all mixing and mingling again.