Normally, I post a new blog post as close to the 1st of each month as I can. This month, I'm 12 days late. It's because I've been hibernating. Maybe you have, too.
With all the changes that have come about in the world because of COVID-19 in the past few months, one change is fairly universal: we are all home more often. Even the people who are still working a full-time job at their place of work are home more often. No gyms. No movie theaters. No restaurants. No social gatherings. We are forced to spend more time at home occupying ourselves. For some people, this transition came easily while for others, it may have felt like torture to no longer go out like normal. No matter what, it's something we are not used to.
Centuries ago, human beings used to "hibernate" in the winter months. That changed when the world become more industrialized. Businesses now keep their hours the same regardless of what time the sun goes down (sometimes expanding hours close to Christmas for holiday shoppers). Cars make it possible for us to go wherever we please at any time of day or night. The increased darkness of winter used to dramatically affect daily life because you couldn't do anything when it got dark. You worked less hours and had no choice but to turn in when the sun began setting (because you were likely working outdoors). With the sun waking you up instead of an alarm clock, you slept more during these months. Not so anymore. Now, we keep our routines much the same no matter what the season is and we don't hibernate any longer. We don't have to.
So what does it mean to hibernate? And why should we do it? The definition of the word means "the condition or period of an animal or plant spending the winter in a dormant state" and "an extended period of remaining inactive or indoors." Hibernation is meant to prepare us for a re-awakening and a renewal period later on. It's a time of change and transition. But for our species, we don't like to be "dormant." We like to be on-the-move and busy. We like novelty and stimulation. When things slow down, our first reaction is to feel bored or restless rather than relaxed and at ease. It feels unnatural for us.
While shelter-in-place orders are an extreme form of slowing down, there are some things to be learned from this time. For me, I have slept more because I don't need to get up and drive to work. I have wanted to move my body so desperately and because I couldn't go to the gym, I instead went on a walk around my neighborhood and danced in my living room one day. I realize now that I can tolerate same-ness much more than I thought and my mind has slowed down more than usual. I took some things off my plate instead of desperately trying to fill in the free time. Has it been easy? Absolutely not. I have had times of hating this period and all the changes that come with it. I don't like feeling limited or stuck in one place. None of us do. But we can learn from it.
As we look ahead to restrictions being lifted and returning to some semblance of "normal", figure out how you can still hibernate every once in a while. Maybe that's taking one day a month to schedule absolutely nothing. Maybe it's letting yourself sleep in a little later than usual on days when you don't work. It could be reducing your technology use and finding quieter activities to do instead. This may have been the first time in your life that you've hibernated; it was a first for me. Don't let it be the last.