Any of you feel like you are living in a time warp? Time keeps ticking and yet you find it hard to know what time it is, let along what day it is? I ask that for many reasons of which the first one is that I totally lost it on my regular Tuesday email which you are getting on Wednesday! Since setting a goal to email you once a week B.Q. (Before Quarantine) I would often wonder how the week went by and somehow it was email time again. A.Q. (After Quarantine) it hits me the same way, yet different. There are days that seem to drag on painfully slow to days that I look at my clock and wonder how it got to be time to start making dinner. In some ways, B.Q. and A.Q. are similar but most days I feel so messed up with my brain, my daily routine…my ‘normal’ that I wonder when or how to make it better.
Time is a way of describing change, but it isn't the change. The movement is. Time is a tool by which the observer can measure the change. In 2020, the coronavirus has become the turning point for change. As events unfolded, something happened to time. Its march forward is no longer measured in days, but in confirmed cases of Covid19 and number of deaths. Milan, Italy is no longer five hours ahead of New York but several weeks ahead. The virus created its own clock with less demarcation between a day and a week a weekday and a weekend, morning and night, present and recent past. All the days blend together.
We measure time objectively with clocks and calendars. We perceive time both in the moment and in hindsight. We all get 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year yet we all experience that same amount of time very differently. Our brains tend to track intervals of time through distinct events. Also, our emotions can affect our perception of time. Typically, unpleasant events drag on while pleasant ones fly by. Living in quarantine has limited those distinct events to make it hard to estimate how much time has passed because our days are all the same and tend to blend together. Our sense of time is broken.
Many of us are experiencing emptier than usual days with little new experiences to track the passing of time. In our B.Q. life, we relished having time to sit and catch up on TV shows, movies, the pile of books, etc. In these A.Q. days we have little to fill our time aside from watching TV, spending hours scrolling through social media, taking a nap, etc. and that’s IF we can find the will to focus on any of this. This time influence often breeds a sense of hopelessly endless days with no beginning or end in sight.
On the other hand, there are folks out there juggling their time like never before. Essential workers or parents who not only work from home but are also expected to be teachers and/or babysitters to their kids have high time-stress and can be overwhelmed with the number of tasks they need to accomplish causing feelings of time-scarcity. It seems like there’s barely enough hours in the day to get everything done before the cycle starts over again.
Too much Covid news
June 1, 1980 Ted Turner launched CNN as the first 24-hour cable news operation. Since then we have become bombarded with having the latest news available to us with the click of a button.
As recently (yes, I said recently) as November 2019 we were beginning to hear of the distant crisis in China. It then spread to other parts of Asia. Then we heard about cruise ship passengers coming down with it. And by early March, Italy issued a national quarantine. Then came travel restrictions, orders to self-isolate, bans on large gatherings and directives to practice social distancing. Constant news was hitting us from every possible source.
Looking at these past months in retrospect tends to lengthen how much time seems to have passed because of the rapidly changing information we’ve been given.
What to do
Inject variety into your daily life. Even if it’s not required of you, adhering to as normal a schedule as possible is beneficial. Keep your B.Q. sleep patterns, don’t stay in your PJs all day (tough one, I know!), keep meals on your B.Q. schedule, and most important is to find something else that will engage your attention to switch your thinking and make this time of uncertainty seem less long and more fulfilling. In other words, find something to do that you love.
Creating occasions to look forward to, no matter how insignificant they may seem will help cope with the uncertainty. These occasions can be as simple as working a crossword puzzle over morning coffee, playing a brainless mobile game (where there is an end-GAME OVER) over your lunch break, support a local restaurant with carryout one night.
And if your struggling with endless boredom, find an activity that allows you to become fully immersed in whatever you’re doing. Learn a language, take an online class, create a garden, learn how to knit or some other craft, drag that bike out of the garage, jump in the car and drive around different neighborhoods, find safe ways to volunteer your time to help others. There are so many ways to create a sense of control over your life and time, so go out there and do it.
Oh, and you know the saying ‘Time flies when you’re having fun’? Well, it actually does because you’re not thinking about time.
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