I have found an unexpected benefit from this whole lockdown situation, and it involves coffee.
Prior to lockdown, I would get coffee from the hospital cafe on most days that I work. When lockdown rules came into place, they no longer allowed use of keep-cups. An understandable rule, but this has been one of the greatest disappointments of all.
At first, I continued to get take-away coffees, now in disposable cups, but eventually the guilt got to me. I decided to cut back.
This was made harder by the fact that management were allowing my department to get free coffees from the cafe downstairs to compensate for the fact that we were banned from accessing the tea room and its complimentary coffee, tea and milk. A pretty generous offer considering the tea room coffee is just basic instant powder, and there’s only plain black tea.
Well, anyway, I was getting the free coffees for a while, because why wouldn’t you, but I think every time I put a coffee cup in the bin, some small part of my soul went with it. So now I have stopped getting coffees in take-away cups — except Mondays because Mondays are hard, and if nothing else, it’s a sympathy coffee.
The other days of the week, I have my coffee at home. It’s just instant, so nothing fancy, and probably not as potent, but the taste is fine for me, and it has enough caffeine to get me through the day.
Realistically, the caffeine probably wears off by the afternoon, but if I stay hydrated and well-fed, I’m generally alright. For comparison, pre-lockdown, I would have some coffee in the morning, and some with lunch, so going from that to only needing a small morning coffee is an improvement for me. I’ve probably (at least) halved my usual coffee intake.
To be fair, the whole situation is helped by the fact that work has been reasonably under control these last several weeks. Staffing and workload are ok (although we still have our frantic moments), and I have been doing less overtime (almost none at all!) Feels like it’s been a long time since I had a very late finish at work.
The upshot of all this is that I think I’m sleeping better. Not necessarily a great deal more than I used to (probably, on average, just an extra half-hour each night) but I tend to feel more rested afterwards. (However, this is hard to judge because it’s now winter here, and it’s so hard getting out of bed when it’s cold and dark regardless of how much sleep one has had.) Of course, this is helped by having a better handle on the new work situation, and figuring out how to manage my time.
And the benefits keep coming! Well, one more: because I don’t feel so dead-tired and drained by the week-end, I don’t spend half of Friday morning sleeping in (I only work Monday to Thursday, so Friday is the start of my week-end). Some Fridays I wake up pretty early (for a day off), and I’m just awake and ready to do things.
I’m hoping that I can keep this going as restrictions are eased (although apparently even in the next phase, they still aren’t allowing keep-cups), but I guess that also depends on workload.
Not to give all credit to my reduced coffee consumption, I must mention the contribution of having a split lunch. This discovery must be credited to my sister and nephew. When I was staying with my sister and her family in March, we ate lunch at 11am, and then dinner at 5pm. This was the routine my two-year-old nephew was on, and this became my routine too.
When I came back to work, I decided to split my one-hour lunch break into two half-hour breaks — one at 11am (or shortly after, workload permitting), and the other half around 5pm (or whenever things are under control enough that I can go away for a bit). Because I start work so early, I have breakfast very early, so I’m always hungry by 11am (and I don’t always have time for a morning tea break). Having an early lunch means I’m usually hungry by 4pm, but I can hold out until about 5pm, and have a smaller second lunch. Generally I will have a small-ish dinner after work.
Anyway, the point is that I think I’m quite well-fed throughout the day, so my energy and alertness is better sustained at an even level, rather than having high peaks and low troughs. It just always seemed weird to have lunch while it was still morning, so I never did.
At work, I like to encourage people to not feel bad about mistakes and problems. Often I will say something like, “it’s ok — everything is fixable!” Stuck in my pre-lockdown routine, I didn’t see a way out of the vicious cycle of caffeine dependence, but now I see that, like everything else, this is fixable too.