It can feel like we’re held captive these days. This week I began thinking of other moments in my life when I felt that way…
– Periods in undergrad or graduate school where big research projects seemed never-ending,
– Points in my twenties when I thought I’d never figure out what to do with my life,
– Or moments as a kid when my parents’ rules felt insufferable
Logically of course, none of these are in the same universe as what we are experiencing with the pandemic. But my recollection is that those feelings of being stuck in time, felt similar to some moments now.
And that’s rather interesting. I look back on all three of those examples now, and I would absolutely love to go back to them. Oh how I would relish returning to school, because I loved it. I would jump at the chance to be in my twenties again, because I had so much fun and freedom. And oh what I would give to be “stuck” at home with my parents now.
We may FEEL held captive in moments. But years down the road, when we look at this slower paced time … what would our future selves relish about it?
Feelings can change our perception of time. In some situations, time just flies by. In others it feels almost immovable. It can feel like social distancing, uncertainty and fear may be around permanently. We may absolutely know that nothing lasts forever … but simultaneously feel that the current situation just might.
This isn’t just a curiosity. It’s based in evolution. Our sense of time actually does fade when we’re stressed. The brain isn’t really worried about “the long run,” when it perceives that it’s fight or flight time.
So the stressed out brain will put thoughts like the following in our mind:
· “I can’t really let myself fully relax and enjoy myself, until …”
· “I would love to just stop and take a walk, but I’ve got to prepare for …”
· “Or it would be great to sneak in a little nap, but I’m already behind on …”
In the long run … when we forget that time keeps moving, we stop respecting it. Time is real, and it doesn’t stop, even if our perception doesn’t notice it. We feel our best when we join with the present moment, instead of trying to find ways to skip ahead, or go back.
Difficult things will eventually pass – thank goodness. And good things won’t last forever – so savor them.
The hard parts of this time will not last forever. It’s good to remind ourselves of that. But the slower pace of this time will also not last forever. Do your best to savor it. Take the transitions slowly. Try to notice the urge to rush, and take your time breathing in and out, when the moments are difficult.