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Thrive is set up by Funding London, a venture capital company bridging the finance gap for early stage businesses based in London. With over a decade’s experience in supporting the startups of London through a variety of funding vehicles, Funding London sensed a need to illuminate the ever-evolving scenario of London’s early stage businesses.

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Perceptions · 4 May '20

Lockdown Fatigue: The Balance Between Doing Too Much And Not Enough

Mental health is no longer a subject reserved for the few, because it’s been forced to be for the many. Lockdown, in whatever capacity or formation it’s hit you, has indeed, hit, and it’s left us all feeling mighty weird. With growing expectations from ourselves, our families, friends, and employers to be exceptionally British about it and get on with a smile, we’re left unsure which way is up or down, in, and not really knowing whether there is in fact, an out.

When it comes to keeping in touch with loved ones, I seem to yo-yo between giddy peaks of excitement at the novelty Zoom backgrounds, and spending more time with my other half than I would until we retire. But then the fatigue hits me; the empty casim of time to fill, the pressure to complete the dull house maintenance tasks, and the absolute dread of yet another virtual quiz.

And that’s because Lockdown Fatigue is real, and it’s certainly not one dimensional.

I am lucky to have previously been exposed to both the highs and lows of mental health to have begun to understand what it means to me, and have also founded my own initiative for investors and startups to support in this field. During this weird, yet sometimes wonderful time, it’s helped me to realise when I need to stop. Pause. Take a breath. But it’s also helped me to realise when I am in fact moping, and need to snap out of it.

But I am also lucky because I work for an organisation that truly cares. Digital Detox, the humanity-led digital product agency I am part of has adapted to change as though it’s been here before, and has done so with grace and humility to protecting and nurturing us as people. We are a team of individuals, who, as the famous lockdown quote goes, are not working from home, but are trying to work whilst stuck at home. A subtle, but important difference.

Dimension one: The danger of not doing enough

A lockdown habit that has yet to shift is referencing said lockdown, and using words like ‘safe’, ‘well’ and ‘doing okay’ at the beginning of our emails. But what that has meant is a really interesting insight into how people are spending their time, and it seems a lot us are spending it doing nothing at all.

Routine is hard to find when that very thing has been pulled from beneath you. Time can feel no more; with sunnier days and lighter evenings, the blur between day and night, work and home is tough. I have found myself prioritising polishing the area of which my camera can see, both in terms of my surroundings, but also the classic ‘smart on top, PJs on bottom’ look, and committing to pretend the rest just doesn’t exist. Keeping up appearances, as they say.

And that’s because at times, I am at risk of not doing enough. Of feeling lazy, demotivated, and unable to prioritise anything because it’s almost as if there’s so much to do, but absolutely nothing at all. Through my fear of running out of potential things to fill my time, my reality becomes void of anything at all. But we should be mindful, as the danger of not doing enough can plays havoc with your purpose, and it’s purpose that keeps you grounded.

Dimension two: The danger of doing too much

We’re creatures of habit, and for many, that means cramming as much as we can into the sweet, 24 hours we’re gifted a day. But with the minutes rolling into one another like never ending waves, the pressure to keep productive can be suffocating.

Travelling. Commuting. Going somewhere. Doing something. The need to be constantly on the move is almost inherent in a world that expects us to continually achieve and grow. Lockdown’s alternative means cramming my day with an overwhelming to-do list and a military style agenda, and craving the idea of needing to get from A to B with an end goal in mind.

Sometimes I go outside because I ‘feel like I should’ – we’re so lucky to not have had that freedom taken from us, that it would be unforgiving to not use it. But even in a world of unlimited time, I run out of the stuff, because I’m probably trying to do too much.

As a communication-obsessed society, an expectation to always be free has to be one of the surprise downsides of lockdown. Whether it’s imagining an unwritten rule to respond to Slack the moment a message comes through, to picking up any and every video call on whichever platform tickles your fancy that day, it really is okay to say no.

And the goodbyes. Oh, I hate them. How do you say, ‘I’m at socialisation capacity, bye’? Instead, I tend to rotate between ‘I actually need to pop to the loo/cook’, or my personal favourite: ‘I’m going to have to love you and leave you now’. Gentle rejection.

But it isn’t rejection, it is life as is right now. Our desire and need to be fulfilled, busy, and understand our purpose is so intrinsically linked to our mental health and wellbeing, that we’re in danger of drowning. Lockdown gives us unprecedented time to pause and reflect; to remember how that feels, and how it clears our mind.

Your purpose in lockdown

Our connection and reliance upon purpose is one of the greatest, unexpected but powerful notions of our time, and can impact our mental health and wellbeing in ways unimaginable. Your surroundings, your job, your routine, they do all impact your purpose, but they do not rule it. You do.