Time altered? You’re not alone

An Cailín Rua

WARP SPEED Surprisingly, time doesn’t drag when life becomes more monotonous – it speeds up.

An Cailín Rua
Anne-Marie Flynn

I don’t know about everyone else, but I am convinced that since this Thing We Shall Not Mention started in March 2020, that it has fundamentally altered the passage of time, and the speed at which time is passaging.
I first noticed that my perception of time had shifted during the very first lockdown, 421 years ago, but I put it down to the change in routine. Now, however, I suddenly find with great alarm that we are in the middle of Christmas shopping season when in my head, I am still straggling behind somewhere back in August 2020, and I am wondering, how on earth can the days seem so long, but the weeks and months so short?
In early November 2020, I spent three weeks in isolation trying to recover from Covid. I remember feeling quite hard done by, given the distinct lack of partying I had been doing, but by mid-December when I couldn’t keep my eyes open past 3pm I felt even more put out.
It took me eleven weeks to feel human again and to be able to go a full day without a nap. Mind you, that eleven weeks only felt like eleven days. I also noticed around that time that my short-term memory and concentration had just decided to exit the building.
Twelve years – sorry, months – later, I still feel distinctly bird-brained, and everything seems to take so much longer. Perhaps I’m just getting older, but it feels more palatable to blame Covid for my miniscule attention span and general lack of speed at getting things done, which may in turn account for the rapid passage of the time.  
Anyway, for those others among us who cannot fathom how the 348 days since New Year’s Day feel like they rolled by in a tenth of the time, I did a bit of digging, and it turns out we are all not losing our marbles. There are hundreds, thousands of accounts online in blogs and on social media of people lamenting this, and it has been researched. Hurrah for science!
Time does, in fact, appear to pass quicker when there are fewer things of novelty happening.
Many of us haven’t left the country in a couple of years, we haven’t been travelling as much, we’ve had fewer events to attend, and for those of us sitting at home at our desks, sometimes there can be very little to differentiate one day from the next.
The little ‘cues’ that break up our day – leaving for the office, going out for lunch - are absent, so our normal perception of time is altered, and there is little of interest upon which to look back. And, according to James Broadway, an instructor of psychology at Lincoln Land Community College in Illinois, a similar phenomenon happens as we age, or when we are sick, or incarcerated.
It seems counter-intuitive – with little to break up the same routine daily, you would think time would drag, but alas, we are careering on down the tracks of life at breakneck speed with our pandemic trauma in our backpacks, while at the same time waiting for a return to ‘normalcy’, which is, I hate to say, actually futile, because everything has fundamentally and irreversibly changed.
I did a bit of reading to see how we can ‘slow down’ time. It’s clear that despite the lack of fun things happening, most of us are still very, very busy. One of the recommendations was to stop trying to multi-task and be more organised. My biggest life challenge long before Covid!
As someone who always has at least 15 tabs open on the computer (and in the brain) this seems like sage advice; juggling work, more work, study, volunteering, family time and social time can be a challenge, especially when all your emails seem to be marked ‘High Importance’. But slowing down and focusing on one thing only at a time can in turn create the kind of structure that our minds are craving.
One thing is for sure, no matter how quickly or slowly we think time is passing, none of us are here for a long time. So let’s fill it with good things where we can.