As the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter in what we hope is a post-pandemic world, my eyes are squinting at the glare. My appearance reflects an undeniably exhausted and weary soul. I want to feel energized and excited, but it eludes me.
And, apparently, I’m not alone.
Countless articles and reports are highlighting our various forms of fatigue: mental, emotional, Zoom, etc. It’s important for us to understand that we aren’t alone if we’re feeling any or all of these things. It’s also important to differentiate between ways we can help ourselves and issues that need professional/clinical assistance.
Sleepiness has been a real bugger for me. I am typically good with 7-8 hours of overnight sleep. But I find myself pushing those limits with late-night social media surfing or shopping or news reading. If you question me about why I’m online so late, I’ll justify it with a claim that it helps me go to sleep. Problem is, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour of surfing before my eyes start to cross. And, by then, I’ve already ruined my sleep goal.
Experts recommend that we put an end to late-night screen surfing (TV or other devices,) ending those sessions an hour before we should go to sleep; maintain a consistent bedtime; eat a well balanced diet; and minimize naps. Of course, the nap thing is a vicious cycle. Naps have both saved me during this pandemic and simultaneously ruined me. Yet, I remain quite fond of them.
If your exhaustion seems out of the ordinary and you are concerned about underlying health issues, make an appointment with your primary care physician. It’s better to know as early as possible if you’ve got something treatable happening.
Emotional health has to be factored in as we attempt to navigate exhaustion, frustration, outrage, fear and disappointment. We want to rely on good advice, but the advice keeps changing. We want our fellow citizens to play by the rules, whatever they are for as long as needed, but some of our neighbors are hard-heads. We want to believe we are in a post-pandemic phase, but we know that variants exist, fall is coming, and we still don’t know anything for certain.
For someone who can experience an emotion, name it, and allow it to pass, this has been a roller coaster. We might have even learned a few new emotions. For someone whose default is to suppress, ignore, and deny feelings or emotions, this pandemic has been a recipe for explosive misfiring and unintended destruction of relationships. In either case, if you’ve been caught off-guard by an onslaught of feelings and emotions that you can’t handle, talk with a trusted friend or mentor or make an appointment with a trained and unbiased professional. I can’t promote the value of talk therapy enough. And, higher level therapy (prescription level, behavioral modification level) has never been more needed. Do not resist getting help at whichever level you need it.
Work instability, changes in hours, temporary sabbaticals, and moves to/from remote locations can be mind numbing. Nearly everyone has felt the sensation of having the rug pulled out from under us over the course of the past year+. And, if we’ve been fortunate enough to maintain a job, we’ve soldiered through all of these things with little down time. For those who lost jobs, everything is on hold. You might be looking at ways to change careers. You might be weighing between working a low-wage job and the high cost of daycare. Sometimes, that just doesn’t add up. For you, down time or vacation isn’t a real “thing” anyway. I know because I’ve been there.
I don’t know if you’ve tried to book any beach time for this coming summer, but it’s nearly impossible to do. Last year, it was impossible because of stay-at-home orders and potential losses due to sudden lockdowns. This year, it’s impossible because folks are FLOCKING to the beach for much-needed time away – and the resource is limited. We are competing for vacation and recreation accommodations. We have to become intentional and even creative in finding ways to rest, relax and have fun again. As one article put it, we have been robbed of our ability to be spontaneous. (I agree, except it happened to me from previous trauma. This just added to it.)
Walking has been helpful to me in several ways. It offers a certain reset in my brain, allowing me to experience endorphins and a pleasant alternative to screens. When I face those moments after work when I wonder if I want a nap or a walk, I always try to opt for the walk. And I thank myself later.
Do you have any suggestions for ways to cope with crawling out of this pandemic and all of the collateral effects? Do you need more recommendations? Drop a note in the comments. Let’s try to help each other with this re-entry and pray for a world that is healthier and kinder on the other side.