Sunday, October 25, 2020

Are You Experiencing Modern-day Acedia?

As the pandemic continues, is the social isolation and restrictions in movement causing a feeling of melancholy and unmotivated? Are you losing interest in posting selfies, attending web conferencing events, and streaming shows and movies? As the news gets worse, do you find yourself devouring negative news and getting sidetracked by social media, yet have a number of home projects to do? 

“You're bored, listless, unmotivated, afraid, and uncertain. What you have may be feeling is 'acedia'. This occurs when you have spatial and social constrictions that a solitary life necessitates. Acedia is combination of listlessness, undirected anxiety, and inability to concentrate.”

With the next wave of Covid inflight, if this feels like something you are experiencing, it could be acedia. The initial novelty of adapting to the first wave with restricted lifestyle was fun or at least interesting in the initial wave as we adapted to this new way of living. However, in this second round, it is no longer novel and may be a bit vexing as we stare at our screens in dreariness. Those things that we did to pass time are no longer amusing or even interesting. Are you starting to have the feeling of acedia?

As leaders, it can happen to us and it can happen to our employees. What can we do? The first thing is call it by its name. Having a name to what you may be feeling connects it to something real.  Once it is recognized as something real, you can more easily do something about this. What you may have is “acedia”. How that we recognize it by its name and that it is a real thing, we can try to put actions in place to minimize it. Here are some things we can do for ourselves.

Establish a routine. It’s not uncommon in this pandemic that we have let our schedules slide a bit.  However, while this may be good for vacations, it has been proven that having a routine can be helpful in times of uncertainty. Providing a routine to our day can give us a sense of control, reduce stress levels, and improve our focus and productivity. 

Find a new non-screen interest such as a hobby, sport, or outdoor activity. The advantage of this is these types of activities are absorbing and encourages you to take some time for yourself. Focusing in on an interest can relieve stress by keeping us engaged in something we enjoy.

Initiate an exercise regimen. As the pandemic can make it challenging to participate in a health club, setting up a home regimen with minimal equipment can be beneficial. This can include a walking, jogging, or cycling regimen. The benefits of regular exercise are that it can improve our mental health and mood, and boosts your energy level. 

Finally, allow time to celebrate. This includes personal events like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and work-related events like releases into production, retrospectives, work anniversaries, and other employee’s personal events. The act of celebrating can relieve stress.  Remember, acedia is often a result of being drawn to negative news. Taking the time to celebrate breaks the negative cycle and changes the focus to something more positive.

If you are feeling bored, listless, unmotivated, afraid and uncertain, what you might be experiencing is acedia. If you think you are, put a name to it so you recognize it as some real. More importantly, put actions in place to mitigate the effects. This may include establishing a routine, finding a new non-screen interest, initiating a new exercise regimen, and allowing time to celebrate.