From what I’ve been seeing, reading, and hearing in discussions with friends on five continents, one of the major challenges during COVID-19’s unexpected housebound life challenges stems from what to do with the time that mandated self-isolation creates.
For those whose habits and lifestyles enable them to amuse or entertain themselves as a course of habit, self-confinement does not require a major adjustment. For “connector” personality types and those whose lives are fueled largely by external experiential interactions, this new set of government mandated restrictions presents a challenge.
Managing the stress level of forced behavioral change relies on two things:
- How well we manage the Worry Circle, and
- The time choices we make to usher the hour hand around the clock.
Worry Circle management is maximized when we block out most the noise we hear and focus on things we can control. The world is facing a formidable invisible foe. Worrying about the entirety of it is a heavier burden than any of us can bear. Focus on the things you can control–specifically your thoughts and actions — and block out the rest. If you have to unplug or turn off the TV, do so. Noise abounds; and the echoes can get pretty loud if we watch and listen to them for hours on end. Focus on the world you live in — your little cocoon — and own what you choose to worry about. If you cannot control it, block it out.
Time choices will determine how effectively or poorly we navigate each day. These choices fall into four categories:
- Spent time.
- Wasted time.
- Invested time.
- Cherished time.
Spent time involves tasks we must undertake to complete progressing through the day. These are necessary things, but not activities with eventual payoffs. Showering, dressing, eating…..these are ‘spent time’ tasks, as is getting groceries or medicine.
Wasted time serves no practical purpose and generates zero return for the minutes and hours we fritter away. Idle time often slogs into this category unless we consciously choose not to let it.
Invested time creates equity in the minutes and hours we embrace in activities that eventually will generate a payoff. I have traded screen time for reading time. I prefer turning the pages of a well written book to screen reading, and find consistently high payoffs tied to the completion of a great read. In the words of author J. D. Salinger, “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him (or her) up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”
Cherished time warms the soul, and if ever a time in life was ripe to act upon the urge to brighten the lives of others, this is it. One way to do this is to phone a different friend each day and let your voices build a sturdier bridge. Knowing people are out there who care about us is tonic for the soul. They will feel better and we will feel better. Reaching out lets us demonstrate significance in the lives of others.
These are tough times and will get tougher. Manage the right things, block out the rest, and consciously make specific time choices that will enable each day to be a good one.
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