How to Have Compassion for Yourself When You’re Having a Hard Time

There’s this term I read about, called “New Tank Syndrome.” This term is used by dolphin trainers to describe what happens when a dolphin is put into a new tank: the dolphin is distracted by its new surroundings and suddenly doesn’t respond the same way to training and trained cues.

It’s only temporary, though. After some time in the new tank, all of its previous skills and trained responses will come flooding back to their previous levels.

During this time, though, the trainers don’t try and train the dolphin. Doing so would only frustrate both of them, and possibly damage the relationship in the process. So what do the trainers do? They wait. They relax the demands of training. They don’t do anything new that requires focus and attention. They let the dolphin get used to its new surroundings.

These past 2 years have been rough for a lot of us. Many aspects of our lives have been in upheaval. Have you noticed the people around you responding differently, maybe not doing things they used to do, or taking longer to finish things? 

They may have New Tank Syndrome. Please go easy on them. Things are new. Things are different. Ease up on what you expect from them.

Have you noticed yourself being more irritable? Getting emotional over something minor? Unable to focus or work? You’re also in a New Tank. Go easy on yourself, too.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stop doing everything. For me, I noticed that I’m working at about 50 or 60% efficiency right now. Normally I’ll work from 9:00am to 6:00pm. Nowadays I’m working effectively from 9:00am until around 12 noon, and then working slowly or not at all from 1:00 – 6:00pm. I have a tendency to just push and push, chastise myself for not doing enough, and then fall into feelings of worthlessness when I don’t meet the measures I’ve set for myself.

But, rather than that, I’m allowing myself to just remain at 50% efficiency as I get used to my New Tank. I understand that our New Tank keeps changing: we’re opening up, and then closing down; we’re starting new routines, and then cancelling them. We’ve been in these cycles for what seems like a long time now, and it’s wearing us down.

It’s ok to go slow right now. Not only is it ok, it’s appropriate. You will know it’s time to ramp things up when you feel you have more focus to accomplish things.


  • Have you been noticing a slump in your productivity? Maybe this slump has been there this entire 2 years.
  • Have you been trying and failing to get your routines back to what they used to be?
  • How can you apply New Tank Syndrome to yourself? What difference do you see that it makes for where you are and what you’re doing?

Please tell me, I’d love to know!

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