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Writing Challenge Day 10: What Day is It?

We’ve all experienced the feeling of staring into the distance, while your mind is busy processing, working out which day of the week it is. I’ve spoken to several friends and, other than one clearly more switched-on person in my social group, all admit to this being a weekly if not thrice weekly event.

You know those first 10 minutes of the day when you wake up and you’re working out how many minutes you can still lay in bed on your side with your eyes closed, still wishing you were asleep? The time you fail to achieve any true benefit, but know it’s 100% the best thing in the world to do at that point, where your “what is it I am getting up for today” thoughts start flowing in. Clearly this process requires a key piece of information – what day it is. This is normally that “have to think a bit harder for that answer” moment. However, I’m finding any time of day the “eerrrmmm, urrgghh, hhmmm” blank face can strike and hopefully “Tuesday, it’s Tuesday!” arrives before then.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is another symptom of COVID-19. Well actually, the symptom of the lock down, directly related to the pandemic, so I’m blaming COVID-19. We’re all being asked to live in restrictive ways, with the level of repetition in our lives significantly increased. This repetition leaves us with fewer and fewer identifiable moments during our waking day, the things normally helping us latch on to the constant nature of time. With less markers during the minutes and hours, we’re struggling to keep a mental reference to time.

If you’re anything like me in working from home, it feels like a conveyor belt existence.

 

m_roberts_0-1607306160061.png

 

This is all spent within the same location and so it’s no wonder days morph into one, that yesterday felt the same as the day before. This is also having a significant impact on the speed of time. This year has had periods where I write a date out or look to schedule something and the realisation it’s the end of the month in a few days hits you – What the heck, where did September go?!

I’ve been reading up on the impact of working from home under lockdown and how it has applied to my life. I rarely work from home, I don’t enjoy working from home, historically I mostly did it when I needed to get something done uninterrupted. I’ve fallen into the trap of working more; with breakfast and lunch at work area, working right up to dinner etc. All within a consistent routine.

Time to put some effort into breaking this. Research clearly shows that for time to slow down and for memories to be implanted, we need things to be different, unique. If you’re still in a lockdown situation, as many of us are in some form, the following are simple things to help make a difference.

  • Walk to work
    • No, walking down the stairs is not enough! Go out, walk different routes, and arrive at work. Yes, it’s still home, but give yourself the activity and chance to put yourself in the right mindset that you’re going to work.
    • This is also great for giving you the space to think things through calmly before you see the carnage of your inbox.
  • Take meaningful breaks and do something different
    • You can work around your work hours. If you need to complete eight hours in a working day, try talking to your employer about breaking up your schedule, they should praise you for working flexibly to keep your mental state in a good place. Mow the lawn, run your errands, bake a cake. These are all things you can fit around your work time.
  • Mix things up
    • If you like exercising, find something else to add to the option list; ride a bike, run, create a home gym, or order the gold net so you can practice your swing. Exercise is also a key ingredient to good mental health.
    • Where safe to do so, find new places to take a walk.
    • If you normally read books of one genre such as crime or fantasy, change it up for non-fiction or take the chance to read one of the classics.
    • Take up a new hobby, it doesn’t need to be based on you watching an episode of “Forged in Fire,” learn a musical instrument.
    • Whatever you normally do, change it for something along the same line, but different.

These activities are likely to provide benefits, not just to fix the brain fade introduced by the monotonous regularity of our COVID-induced routine, but to enhance almost any life routine. Changing things up, giving yourself new challenges, and doing things in different ways and in a different order is something to embrace and might even make your internal clock run a tad bit slower—it’s worth a shot, right?

Hopefully I’m going to take more of my sage advice and reduce my need to think about it being a errrmmm… Tuesday, today!

21 Comments
MVP
MVP

Good one @m_roberts 

Completely agree with you, with all this happening around (COVID-19) lifez become so monotonous that we outta break out from our normal routine.

These days i completely am thinking what day it is, by the time we reach mid of the week i would be thinking is it Wednesday or Thursday.

Like AD & BC (year) its now called BC & AC (Before COVID & After COVID) - natural side effects of COVID that we forget what day it is lol

As you have rightfully time to put some effort into breaking this 🙂 i will definitely think of doing something now which i use to ignore in the past like walking for example 🙂

MVP
MVP

I would be interested to see what people are doing to break the monotony those being under lock down have applied to their lives. 

Level 14

Great points @m_roberts ! Once I started working at home starting in April, in the beginning the days seemed to melt together... (never mind Tuesday.... what he heck happened to Monday????). I finally built a routine and thanks to my outlook calendar it made me more aware and kept my head in the game!

 

Beats being the 21st century version of Edward Gorey's "N is for Neville who died of ennui "!!!!

https://slate.com/culture/2018/11/gashlycrumb-tinies-history-edward-gorey.html)

 

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Level 10

I think my kids kept me grounded when I was working from home. Every day is a different form of madness. Fighting, playing, screaming, singing, and imagining loudly around the house and yard are all good ways to keep each day different and interesting. Kids don't do bored well and will drag you into their entertainments whether you want to or not. They were (and are) the best way to keep me moving forward and avoid stagnation in a stagnating world.

Community Manager
Community Manager

Mark, I absolutely loved several things about this article:

[...] so I’m blaming COVID-19

I think that this may be my rallying cry for all of my decisions of 2020.

Your choice of picking on Tuesday is inspired because not every day has that drudgery of a Monday or the fun of a Friday, but more the Eeyore "ho-hum" of a Tuesday.

"If you like exercising"

Thanks, but no.

"Take up a new hobby"

Yes, please, sir, may I have another?

Shaking things up is exactly what needs done.  Just do your daily routine in a different order.  Brush your teeth in bed then get out from under the blankets.  Whatever you need to do separate this day from the one before or one after.

MVP
MVP

But it is so hard to get up out of my chair... I have this pain under my right shoulder blade. Apparently it is mouse-itis from too much mouse utilisation. My breaks are disrupted by people asking for meetings about things I have no clue about.

I know what day it is... it is the 10th of December. I only know because yesterday was my birthday. A few days later i'll be in the dark again.

You make some great points Mark. Let us all mix it up!

Level 8

@m_roberts 

Excellent points.  There have been weeks, even before COVID, that I would have to pause to figure out what day it is.  I have even had weeks where there was only one day, Monday.  The rest of the week would breakdown to Monday #2, Monday #3, Monday #4 and so on.  The positive about this situation is that, thankfully, it did not happen all the time.  A week of the Mondays is definitely a cause for taking some much needed time off.

Thanks.

Don

I am a creature of habit. Routine speaks to me. Halloween last year I made a life change to health. Lockdown has been a catalyst for that. As the year burst into spring I was able to exercise everyday and I have seen, and felt, great improvements. I walk 10 miles 5 days a week, run 10k 2-3 times weekly, and bike when I can (However, this will change now that winter is coming). I've lost a ton of weight as a result. And I do it all before the family wakes up. Prior to 2020 I was never a morning person so go figure.

 

thwack.png

Level 11

@dhaldemanvery well put - I've had some of those weeks too!  

Level 13

Great tips, Mark. 

I will add to the recommendations here:

  • Get Dressed. More than that...don't wear sweats or pajamas all day every day. Trust me it affects your mental state.
  • One of the fun things this year we did at work was a virtual costume party....while that was from Halloween, things like that can be a great change of pace. Doing a happy hour? Take the time to dress up as if you were actually going to a bar. Not every day, but if you have to have a virtual event....make it an EVENT 🙂 at least for yourself.
  • Stop doomscrolling....look for more on how I did that this year later this month. But, really, do something away from the endless watching of news/social media at least for a while. 
MVP
MVP

@tinmann0715  - well done to you for taking on and maintaining such a change. I used the exercise (sorry Kevin) activity as an example, as lockdown rules at least in the UK allowed for an amount of exercise to be performed outside each day and I know many people used that to get themselves out of the house not just for the physical health aspect, but mental health. I hope you keep it up!

Level 11

Taking the dog for a walk throughout the day is a nice break. Recently the wife wanted to start getting more steps in so she has been taking a few of the walks and I have been missing them. It is nice to get away from the home work life at least just for a few minutes.

Level 11

While sometimes days seem to meld together, it has not been due to COVID, but just too much going on at times. In my hopefully only temporary 'normal,' I have continued to have enough things to remind me of what day it is. Monday morning is the conference call with my program manager and her team. Wednesday morning is my team's weekly conference call. The trash and recycling have to be put out for collection Thursday morning.

Most important, however, is the climax of the week: Shabbat, which sets a rhythm for each week. Fridays, if I am at the office, I have to be sure to reach home before Shabbat begins (i.e., before sundown). This time of year, that might affect other days' schedules, making me work extra hours earlier in the week. Shopping gets planned and food gets purchased or defrosted so it will be ready for Shabbat. It all forces me to be cognizant of what day it is.

Level 9

I can't decide which is more accurate these days either 1984 or Groundhog Day

Level 18

As I write this, the first Chanukah candle has burnt out, a brave but dim light against the sea of darkness. But it will be joined in the next 7 days until the heat and light will be impossible to quell or ignore. And so, with his permission, I'd like to build on the thought presented earlier in the comments by @mjperkins:

"And the rhythm of life is a powerful beat,
Puts a tingle in your fingers and a tingle in your feet,
Rhythm on the inside rhythm on the street
and the rhythm of life is a powerful beat" *

One of the unintended consequences of my lifestyle (i.e.: orthodox Judaism) is that there is an inescapable rhythm to things. Every day carries the steady beat of shacharit, mincha, and maariv (morning, afternoon, and evening prayers).

The secular week begins on Saturday night with havdalah ("separation") and culminates with Shabbat.

The beginning of months are marked by adding Hallel prayers. The seasons carry special additions for rain or dew.

And throughout, the holidays punctuate those more natural and cyclical rhythms. There are the 7 days of sukkot; 8 days of passover; 49 days of the omer. There's the month of Elul when we rise each morning to assess how the past year has gone, and which counts down to Rosh Hashana where we pray we're given another year to try to reach our potential. And so on.

While I sympathize with everyone here who has suffered from that feeling of timeless-ness, the question of "what day is it" in my house (and in my neighborhood) is rarely heard. It's 3 days since (or until) Shabbat. Purim is just 2 months away. And so on.

Far from diminishing my perception of time, the pandemic has increased my appreciation for the wisdom of sages who passed from this world long ago, but understood the effect of stress and strife on the human psyche, and offered a means to overcome it.

 

 

* - I know those aren't the original lyrics Sammy Davis Jr. sang, but it *is* the lyrics most of us of a certain age learned in grade school, and I'm going with it.

As I have mentioned before I am time challenged. Which has led to an inordinate fascination with the study of time. What is it? How people perceive it? How does our minds construct time?

One of the items that sticks with me is the experiment where folks fall off a very high tower and are asked to look at a big watch flashing numbers. The goal is to see if the participants can read the insanely fast display screens as they plummet towards the ground. What the scientists were exploring is the phenomena where in an accident of other high adrenaline situation we perceive time as slowing down. So does it really slow down or is it something else? The conclusion they drew from these experiments is what is going on is in these situations your mind is taking in and recording everything that is going on. Recording everything. In normal situations it throws most of that stuff away. But in these it is trying to figure out what might be important to know. How do I avoid this in the future? How might I survive it now? When we are then again in a safe place and our mind has calmed down, the shear volume of data at your disposal from the trauma gets interpreted as having taken way longer than it actually did. It is the novelty of all the sensor data flooding in and being recorded that makes time seem to slow down.

I think in lockdown for many there is no novelty to the input. Or very little. So the mind turns it down, throws it away, it isn't important. It is not that it is necessarily boring. It just it something worth remembering. Hence the time seems to fly by and one moment blends into the next. 

@m_roberts suggestions are good for introducing novelty into your sensor data. Who knows what novelty you might see on your walk to work that makes this day stand out from the others? 

Level 11

Partly due to the lockdown, and partly because of social anxiety, i've had to take up new hobbies.  So gone back to BJJ, which is good for the body and mind.  Although im finding im hurting like hell.  Im old now 😞

I think it is easy in the day's of covid to wake up and forget what day it is or even how to stay motivated.  Then I remember there is a writing challenge for 2020 and it tells me exactly what day it is and life is good.

Level 9

Today is the third Friday in a row I've experienced this week. It's not normally that bad. I fell into a pretty solid work week routine a few months ago. Now that it's not hot as blazes outside, I've started playing a LOT more Pokemon Go and going (safely and with all appropriate precautions) to a nearby park every evening to try to catch 'em all. (It's actually nice wearing a mask when it's cold outside; keeps my face nice and warm!)

Level 8

@tomiannelli 

Time is natures way of keeping everything from happening at once!

@dhaldeman Spot on that! Interesting to hear when Brian Cox discussed time on one program that currently there is nothing in physics that says things can't happen at once or go backwards. But in our instance of the universe there are those pesky laws of thermodynamics that seem to hold and give time's arrow a particular direction. I know I just simplified that!

About the Author
Technical Director at Prosperon Networks, a Platinum SolarWinds Partner in the UK, specialising in Network & Systems Management and Monitoring. Responsible for a team of engineers who together provide consultancy, installation and training services to organisations of all sizes throughout the UK and Europe.