While the lockdown has had a profound effect upon each of us as we manage the best we can to adapt our lives around others and somehow also take care of our wellbeing, this collision of work and home life has had a particular impact upon women, who are currently experiencing an escalation in their overall responsibilities and unpaid work.
Adjusting to the lockdown can be a confusing experience, full of contradictions such as:
- More time when we are not travelling to our workplaces or other activities, yet less time due to picking up extra work associated in the home. Let’s face it, a little driving downtime can be useful from time to time
- We feel we are safer at home, yet realise how vulnerable we are when we hear of escalating case numbers
- We have more time for rest yet feel more emotionally exhausted
- We feel responsible for our children’s wellbeing yet can’t compensate for the impact lockdown may have on them
- We may feel we are 100% responsible for our children as well as 100% responsible to maintain our usual work lives, leaving many uncomfortably positioned as the chief problem-solvers of the household
Some telling research (UK based) conducted during 2020 and 2021 lockdowns (cited below) has identified women as a group particularly vulnerable to the effects of stress on their physical health and wellbeing. Compared to men, stress is higher, social encounters are fewer, more jobs have been lost, and childcare responsibilities are increasing. There has also been a sad increase in domestic violence, and if this relates to you please reach out for assistance (see the crisis numbers below).
The toughest adjustments in the lockdown for women then, appear to be responding to impossibly competing demands as well as an increasing workload. If we think about it;
Stress thrives on high demands and low resources.
Anxiety thrives when we can’t tolerate uncertainty.
Depression thrives when life feels outside of our control.
I was reading this morning about the locus of control, a psychological concept a colleague recently flagged as significant in describing a person’s perception of personal autonomy in life. Briefly, an external locus of control refers to a person’s belief that outcomes and events are outside of their influence, while an internal locus of control refers to a person’s belief that their own efforts and abilities will lead to success. The concept suggests that we all move between both states, however an internal locus is associated with wellbeing, greater autonomy and happiness.
So, increasing our control over the small things appears to be a great way to roll during the lockdown.
For myself, I immediately recalled my sock cupboard, which has become a metaphor for life-management in recent years. Many years ago as a young woman and mother of one small child, living in a different country, I met a polished and practised mother of seven. Yep – that many. Being in her home was a fascinating experience, which I recall as a series of revelations…
Wow, look at the older kids helping out while we chat!
This is great, she doesn’t mind that I am not entertained right now while she does other stuff!
Oh what a fantastic idea – she puts all individual socks into a cupboard by size and everyone finds their own pair!
Years later, faced with life demands and teens of my own in the midst of a pandemic, I am grateful for her influence each time I throw all the white socks in one tub, the black socks in another, the school and sport socks on their own shelf, and shut the door of my cupboard. It is not my responsibility to match each pair; nor am I accountable to each member of the family for their efficient sock selection. I have given that responsibility back to them, lightening my own load of personal responsibility, and ultimately increasing my own locus of control.
I also thought of the opportunities I have had to constructively influence my teens during lockdown; increasing my control over the small things. My nail-biter has grown out his nails. All teens are eating more fruit and vegetables. We are all sharing the cleaning load. We have written more letters to our sponsor children. We are eating meals cooked by the kids. I have read three books. And I feel good about all of that. In fact, we all do.
What is your proverbial sock cupboard, waiting for you to lighten the load and give responsibility back to others? What are your internal locus of control opportunities? How can you increase your own personal autonomy to achieve satisfaction and lessen stress?
If you or someone you know needs help you can call:
Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
Mensline Australia 1300 789 978
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636
Headspace 1800 650 890
Oved S., et al (2021). Differential effects of COVID-19 lockdowns on well-being: interaction between age, gender and chronotype. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 19(179)