It's a joke.
Time. It's a joke, right?
How can something be fast and slow all at once?
Yesterday it was December and now it's April Fool's Day. Yet, at the same time, it feels as though you can count the minutes of every single day. But then they all blend into each other. What's going on??
Time has become elastic in ways most of us haven't experienced before. How many times have you asked someone, "What day is it today?"?
Sleep patterns have also been disrupted for many people and they experience an overall sense of sluggishness, which also can make time feel agonisingly slow ("Is it the weekend yet?").
The brain is trying to process what is happening to us - the combination of massive change, stress, anxiety, the unknown, hope, is having a huge impact on us and our brains. One part of the brain is responsible for our Circadian rhythms (what happens to us on a daily basis), which have been disrupted pretty much across the board.
And another part of the brain is responsible for shorter time periods, which have also been disrupted.
The New Normal
That's why we crave something like 'normality', whether we call it the new normal, or a need for the old normal, the critical desire is to have regularity. We are pattern-making creatures and part of the purpose of our creating patterns is to give the brain a break from having to consciously and continually make choices. Patterns leave the brain free to handle more complex duties and information.
Living in a state of constant disruption puts additional pressure on our brain functions and it's one of the reasons why our perception of time is so changeable. Not only that, our memories are affected as well.
Many of these brain functions are designed to help us deal with things in the immediate: we all know about fight or flight. The brain signals the sympathetic nervous system to send out a cocktail of hormones into our bloodstream so we can either get the hell out of danger or step forward to confront it.
But that's not what's been happening this past year - for many of us, our sympathetic nervous systems are being overloaded with signals so that we are drowning in a sea of overproduced cortisol and other hormones which all affect our perception of time.
Is there anything we can do about this? Aside from waiting till the pandemic is over (really?) or till everyone has been vaccinated (really?), there are things you can do to mitigate the time illusion that so many of us are dealing with.
Helpful Things You Can Do
1. Rhythm's the Thing
This may sound like teaching grandmothers to suck eggs, but the first thing is to find a few areas in your life where you can get into some kind of rhythm. It can be as simple as meal-time - eating your meals at the same time every day. Going to bed at the same time every night, bathing, etc. We all know how well children respond to routine (even if they fight it); well, it's just as good for us adults.
2. Down Time
We all need down time in our days. Before, it might have been coffee breaks during the day with a colleague or two, or taking time when the kids are in school to put your feet up, or going out for a walk during your lunch-hour.
Anecdotally, I've heard that a lot of people are simply skipping these altogether and somehow feel obligated to sit in front of their computers all day long. This is not healthy. Schedule it in and put your guilt about taking time out on the back burner - you can always retrieve it later if you wish.
3. Combat Zoom Fatigue
Back-to-back Zoom meetings are nuts. The novelty appeal is a bit tarnished, and although Zoom (and other platforms) has been a real life-saver, too much of it is definitely not a good thing.
The first thing we all have to accept is that because it's not the same as face-to-face, and I mean big-time, you have to adjust the way meetings are held: they need to be shorter, include more laugher, account for distractions.
And most of all, the need to be scheduled in such a way that you have a decent gap between each one. Not pee-break length, but at the very least, tea-break length and then some.
4. Accept that Things Take Longer
Part of this time elasticity is that things seem to take a lot longer than they did before. Not everything, but loads of stuff need more time to get done.
The more you accept this is real, the fewer expectations you will pile on your shoulders, which in turn lowers your stress.
5. Phone a Friend
This piece of advice is good for lots of issues, not just time issues. We need to talk more as never before, and taking a friend break is really good for your mental well-being.
Try not to rush conversations or do other things at the same time. We thrive on connections, so reaching out and being available to be reached out to helps us cope better.
Take A Break
I for one, am now going to reward myself for finishing this blog by taking a break.
I need to rest my 'little grey cells' and I may sit in the window watching the birds at the bird feeder, read a bit of the book I'm in the middle of, have a cool glass of water.
The point is, I'm not going to rush to the next thing on my to-do list.
It will still be there tomorrow and I will find the 'time' to do what I can.