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a blog by Chris Barrow

Monotony and insomnia

A new buzz word is appearing, to succeed from those old favourites “new normal”, “unprecedented” and “groundhog”.

The word is “monotony”.

Trending in last week’s client reports (trackers) were the (now) usual:

  • Staff absences due a variety of Covid-related complications - shielding, self-isolating, testing positive, child care and compassionate leave;

  • Patient cancellations due to pre-vaccine fears around travel of any kind;

  • The reluctance of a minority of clinicians to go beyond a minimum pace of delivery.

These are all issues that we have learned how to deal with by using agility to pivot around an ever-changing rota and day list.

There’s a deeper issue affecting us all psychologically and the “monotony” of the weeks seems to be hitting hard and manifesting itself in many ways.

For me personally, it has been an unexpected series of nights during which I have struggled to sleep for more than 3 to 5 hours at a time.

I can hardly recall any time in my life when sleep hasn’t come very easily, other than the thankfully rare occasions when personal or professional trauma has kept me awake.

Since 1st January I estimate that half of my nights so far have been broken by long periods of either staring at the ceiling in the dark or reading in the spare bedroom.

My coach, clients and friends have been overwhelmingly helpful in suggesting many techniques, lotions, potions and habits to help (many, if not all, of which I have tried). With limited success.

Last week, 6 good nights. This week so far, 2 bad nights.

I’ve thought deeply about what is happening to me.

My personal life couldn’t be better.

My professional life couldn’t be much better under the circumstances.

So why can't I sleep properly?

My conclusion is that although I'm not worried about anything, I have come to worry about everyone.

After 10 months of relentless engagement with my clients, colleagues and the wider dental community, I'm wondering if it has all just "got to me" and that the monotony of starting all over again in the new year, plus the "weight" of hearing so many friends facing challenges has, for once, overwhelmed my usual resilience and stoicism?

Having identified that as a probable cause, my mission over the days ahead will be to work with my coach on tactics to move quickly through this phase.

Now that I think of it - a classic example of The Renewal Cycle explained by Frederic Hudson and Pamela Maclean in their 1990's book "Lifelaunch - a passionate guide to the rest of your life".

Phase 1 - going for it - happy because you are on a mission;

Phase 2 - the doldrums - becalmed with uncertainty;

Phase 3 - cocooning - self-discovery;

Phase 4 - getting ready - looking for the next big quest.

I've been in the doldrums since 1st January - now I'm cocooning and I want to be getting ready - for something.

The challenge is that the uncertainty and monotony of the Covid landscape makes it difficult to get ready for anything.

Time to move to Phase 4, in spite of the limiting factors all around us.

My challenge - is to find my challenge.

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