Q: Any tips on dealing with the boredom of lockdown? I'm so over this.
A: It's not easy being in Auckland right now, as we head into week five of level 4, with likely a couple more weeks of level 3 to go. The same four walls. The same routine, losing track of the day, the time, everything becoming a bit of a grey blur.
However, while we might all be familiar with the idea of boredom - and many of us even more familiar right now - it can help to get a bit clearer as to what boredom actually is for you.
Boredom comes in many flavours, and as such may require different solutions.
Firstly, the feeling part can be a form of anxiety or uncomfortable tension. Sometimes when we talk about boredom what we're actually talking about is that for some of us it can be hard to just sit with our feelings and not distract - do nothing - because the feelings are painful or unfamiliar.
Boredom can also, at a behavioural level, mean not being able to engage in things, or not being to self-direct and engage in useful or enjoyable activities. A listless "don't feel like doing anything" type feeling that leads to inactivity.
Your experience may be a mix of both but either way, two general approaches can help.
One, practise sitting with feelings and doing nothing. Generally we call this mindfulness. This can be challenging, because it may be that other feelings come to the surface - sadness, anger, fear - that may be hard to feel. But try to practise just feeling.
Getting better at being good company for yourself is a great skill to get better at - and what better time to practise?
Two, get active despite how you're feeling. Do something, anything, to get moving - and be kind to yourself while doing it. Don't criticise yourself into action - instead, validate the fact that it's hard to get moving and celebrate even the smallest task.
Q: Now my two primary school kids are home with us, they're really acting out, fighting with each other and refusing to listen to us and get stuck into schoolwork. What can I do to manage their behaviour?
A: Like most Auckland parents - myself included - I suspect you have a newfound appreciation for the work teachers do. Being parent, teacher and having to do your own work all at the same time is a stressful combination.
However, it's really important to remember this is also really hard for our little ones. What you're describing, as tempting as it can be to go there, isn't "naughtiness" - it's difficult emotions playing out as picking on each other.
Our job as parents, which is really hard at the moment, is to resist the temptation to go to punishment and reaction, but to instead take the lead on setting the emotional tone for the family. To make sure we start by regulating our own emotions and frustrations and model the behaviour we want.
This includes being able to talk about - not act out - the feelings of frustration, annoyance and sadness the lockdown enviably brings. Challenge yourself to be vulnerable.
Make space and time to check in and give them permission to talk about the hard feelings. And even though it can be anxiety-provoking - ease up on the expectations, especially if they're having a tough day. A few weeks of disrupted school work, more screen time or gaming isn't going to ruin their lives.
Prioritise connection and them feeling emotionally safe and, if you are going to push them on one thing, then make it physical activity and getting outside - walking, cycling or just playing on the lawn.
Making it through tough times by talking about feelings, being vulnerable and not being hard on ourselves is a valuable life lesson. Now is the time to learn it.