Lockdown regrets? Focus on what you did do

As the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to ‘normal’ life for most of us, on the face of it that meant more time at home to 'get stuff done'. But what if your to-do list didn’t quite go to plan?

Here, we look at why it’s important to let go of lockdown regrets and try to focus on what you did do.

Back in 2020, life as we know it did a 180. ‘Normal’ life was put on hold as a lot of us stayed at home which, in theory, meant plenty of time to do all sorts of productive things.

From fermenting vegetables and learning to play the guitar, to making home learning look ‘easy’, it wasn’t long before social media was awash with posts showing people making maximum use of their time in self-isolation.

But while the start of lockdown may seem increasingly like a distant memory, you might also be feeling like your time in isolation passed in a blur. As though while everyone else seems to have pivoted, upskilled and spent their time being productive, on reflection, you feel like as if you ‘underachieved’.

Sound familiar?

Take heart: you’re not alone

David Hall, a graphic designer who lives with his partner in northern NSW, knows the feeling all too well.

When his clients disappeared as a result of coronavirus, he went into self-isolation with big plans, fuelled at least in part by social media.

Such as getting fit.

Doing some DIY.

And putting in a lot of behind-the-scenes work on the new photography business he’d been just about to launch before COVID-19 hit.

Hardly any of these, or other, plans eventuated (though he did manage to jump on the sourdough-making bandwagon).

“It’s a bit embarrassing, particularly given we don’t have kids, so we weren’t faced with the demands of home learning. If I’m honest, the uncertainty around how long we’d be in lockdown for, and what the post-COVID economy would look like when we eventually resurfaced, left me feeling a bit frozen,” David says.

 The longer isolation has gone on, the less motivated I’ve felt. 

“There didn’t seem much point working on a business that I had no way of knowing would thrive or even survive after the pandemic. And because no-one could say when isolation would end, it felt like I had all the time in the world, so the other jobs just kept getting put on the backburner. The longer isolation has gone on, the less motivated I’ve felt.”

Dwindling motivation during self-isolation even has its own term. It’s called ‘lockdown fatigue’.

It describes a feeling of being demotivated, sluggish or exhausted despite – or perhaps because of –potentially having more downtime due to our disrupted routine.

It’s important to know that this is normal – everything from underlying stress, anxiety, poor sleep and a lack of structure or purpose is thought to contribute.

Everyone’s experience is different

For others, lockdown fatigue has been overridden by lockdown survival.

The combination of work, financial, health and housing insecurity has left a lot of people in Australia feeling anxious and fearful.

Add home learning into the mix and many people have also had less time on their hands rather than more.

Stephanie Clifford Hosking’s hairdressing business disappeared overnight and was replaced by the task of helping her two boys, aged 11 and 12, with learning from home. On top of this she was trying to navigate accessing financial support from the government and negotiating a rent reduction with her landlord.

She feels like her workload doubled.

Tired moMother arrives home with groceries to see her children making a mess 

“Particularly in the early weeks of isolation, I had so much to do and organise – we were just trying to survive. My husband was fortunate to keep his job as an essential worker, but he can’t work from home so had to leave and return to the house daily, which added extra anxiety for us around hygiene and coronavirus,” she explains.

“Having my boys at home 24/7, something I hadn’t done since they were little, and assisting them with their learning was also a shock. I wanted to get everything to do with their schooling perfect but, in the beginning, I wasn’t sure where to start and didn’t realise I was placing too much pressure on myself by having that unrealistic expectation.”

Reframing what achievement looks like

With so much on her plate, Stephanie says she certainly doesn’t feel like she’s underachieved because she didn’t learn how to make sourdough during isolation. But she still has some regrets.

“In hindsight, and given what we know now, I wish I hadn’t been so fearful and put so much energy into being worried about certain things. I’d love to have been able to manage that aspect better, as those feelings of uncertainty and being overwhelmed certainly put the brakes on some professional growth projects for me.

 My lockdown win has turned out to be more emotional growth. I’ll take that. 

“I also don’t love the fact that my emotions and vulnerability played out in full view of my children at times. But I’m proud I got through it – and, more importantly, that they’ve seen me get through it.”

So even though lockdown might not have seen you nail, or even embark on, the goals you set yourself, if you shift your focus you’ll realise you’ve still achieved plenty of things.

“After seeing other isolation experiences on social media, it seems like the pandemic perhaps delivered the exact type of ‘achievement’ different people needed for whatever reason – whether that’s learning something new, or having subconscious permission to do nothing,” Stephanie says.

“Personally, this time has been incredibly challenging, but the silver lining is that my lockdown win has been emotional growth. I’ll take that.”

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