Finding a work-life balance
Milly Earnshaw-White discusses the challenges of returning to normal life – and university – after spending so long adjusting to living in lockdown.
When the pandemic began and the initial lockdown was announced, the prospect of spending a long, indefinite amount of time at home seemed terrifying. I could not imagine my life without the usual components: friends, school, work etc., all of which I was so accustomed to balancing. With the fear of COVID-19 and the responsibility I felt to protect those around me, it felt like a limbo between my own wellbeing and the safety of others. Surprisingly and almost seamlessly, I quickly adjusted to the new lifestyle. I think if the pandemic showed us anything it was the adaptability of us as humans, particularly out of necessity. I was extremely lucky that my home was a safe and relaxing place to be in, and it felt a long cry away from the realities of Coronavirus. My comfort was both a blessing and a curse, it was far too easy to pass the hours away and extremely difficult to get anything productive done. The structure of my pre-lockdown life, filling my days up with tasks and activities, was completely lost.
My comfort was both a blessing and a curse, it was far too easy to pass the hours away and extremely difficult to get anything productive done.
Due to my cautiousness during the various lockdowns, and therefore lack of social interactions, I struggled to envision ever being in a crowd of people, or even sitting in someone else’s house, again. Whilst I heard my friends’ excitement for restrictions lifting, I felt like the bubble wrap which had been surrounding me for the past year was about to be unravelled, exposing me to the world I was now so unfamiliar with. Anywhere outside of my bedroom may as well have been Mars. I dreamt of the simplicity of pre-pandemic life but did not feel prepared for it. My first few “normal” outings were certainly strange; I felt compelled to run away from people whilst also gravitating towards others after being isolated so long. Quickly, any concerns I had were shadowed by the familiarity of being around friends and family, laughing and chatting in a way I would have previously taken for granted. I must have just been so deprived of socialising that my instincts kicked in, turning on auto-pilot.
I have always been an expert procrastinator but, in being at home for such a period, my ability to concentrate has seriously deteriorated. In all the anxiety and excitement of being released to the outside world my priorities definitely lay in socialising and my wellbeing, which are both important, but need to be balanced with other commitments. During the pandemic much attention was brought to mental health but something crucial for me to learn is how to stay mentally healthy whilst getting the work done which is important for my studies. Personally, it is also about recognising when it is laziness, a great trait of mine, or genuinely a sign to take a break. Amidst the pandemic chaos, I’ve gotten better at tuning in to myself and my needs.
If I can make it through a pandemic then surely there must be hope for me to find a work-life balance.
Beginning university this year and starting academic work for the first time in months, I feel like I’m starting from scratch, having to learn all over again how to manage my time and the different aspects of life. Although it has often been challenging to concentrate and complete work, I am gaining a sense of satisfaction and finding my free time is more enjoyable. I feel that for the first time in ages all the components to a normal life are there, I just need to learn how to organise them. If I can make it through a pandemic then surely there must be hope for me to find a work-life balance.