It was about 3:45 PM last Wednesday when I felt like I’d fallen into the deep end of a swirling pool of dark emotions. Instead of fighting my way out of my ugly feelings, I sank right to the bottom and stayed there.
Those dark emotions took my by surprise. Just a few hours before, I’d been happily volunteering for the United Way followed by a trip through the Starbucks Drive-Thru. It had been a pretty good day.
All of the sudden, I felt like I was drowning in exhaustion and sadness. As I sank to the bottom of my bad feelings, I had just one thought:
I am done with the pandemic.
Actually, I wasn’t just done with the pandemic. I was DONE DONE with the pandemic.
There’s a term for this: pandemic fatigue.
Medical professionals are using pandemic fatigue as an umbrella term to describe a lot of things. This is how I’m defining it:
Pandemic fatigue is mental and physical tiredness the result of navigating constant change and uncertainty.
Pandemic fatigue makes us feel like we’re just DONE with the things that keep changing or adding to our uncertainty. Here’s a list – feel free to share in the comments anything that I might have missed:
It’s being done with not knowing when it’s going to be safe to leave the house or to even go grocery shopping.
It’s being done with homeschooling AND working at the same time;
It’s been done with watching doomsday or conflicting reports on the news;
It’s being done being with your spouse all of the time.
It’s being done with the loneliness because you’re single and you can’t date anyone.
It’s being done with watching endless government press conferences;
It’s being done with scouting toilet paper and figuring out what to make for dinner for the 155th night in a row.
Pandemic fatigue sank me HARD last Wednesday.
What caught me by surprise is that I couldn’t coach myself out of those DONE DONE emotions. Usually, I can move my mood with a long walk, phone a friend, prayer or work out. Nope. Not that day.
I could only do two things: BE and BREATHE.
I had to hold space for myself. I gave myself permission to just sit at the bottom for a period of time. I didn’t beat myself up for not coaching myself out of it. I gave myself the gift of just accepting who I was in that moment, even if I wasn’t in a good place. It was okay for me to not be okay.
As I sat in the difficult, deep place, I had to speak Truth to my feelings. This is why I talk about the ABC’s in the Wilderness in my new Surrendered Bible study. There three truths came in handy in my hard space:
I am Always Loved by God (Jeremiah 32:3; 1 John 4:9)
I Believe that God is for you (Joshua 1:9)
I have to Challenge myself to trust God and let go. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
In my deep place, I took the focus off myself and what I was feeling and focused instead on God’s truth. That began to bring some much need relief. This allowed me to then:
When I labored with my kids, the main coaching advice was to breathe. My ability to bring new life into the world was to begin with focusing on my own need to breathe.
Life begins with breath. We suffocate when we can’t take full and deep breathes.
When’s the last time you were aware of your breath? We can’t do anything meaningful for long if we aren’t fully oxygenated.
Sometimes, the worst thing that we can do when we’re tired is to keep doing more things.
So, as I sat in my pandemic fatigued moment, I stopped moving. I had to stop being productive in order to survive.
I allowed myself to concentrate on breathing. Deep breathes. If you’ve done my CALM Technique, one way to take deep breaths is to inhale 1 and exhale “MISSISSIPPI” – it works.
It took about an hour for me to rise back to the surface and out of those ugly emotions. But, I’ve sank into the pool a few times on and off since then. But as I practice “be and breathe” I remember that the feeling will pass. It will for you, too.
Life must go on. Being and breathing is important, but we do have to get moving again. However, for me, I’ve had to re-evaluate how much I do, how fast I’ll move and how far I’ll go.
During the pandemic, our capacity is like an old cellphone battery. Our energy runs out quicker than normal because the pandemic is always running fast and hard in the background of our lives. It’s a silent energy drain that we don’t respect enough.
So, balance for me is adding in more rest time to recharge my batteries.
Pandemic fatigue can be many things to many people. But for me, I’ve allowed it to become a “yellow light” in my life. When I’m feeling tired and weary of it all, I give myself permission to take 10-15 minutes to Be and Breathe.
Be gentle with yourself, friends.
What a timely encouraging word!
Awesome, Renae! I’m glad that this was an encouragement to you!
Hey Barb, it’s Marsha Thayer from your current Surrendered small group, thank you for posting this. Ironically, before going to bed I jokingly (yet with some seriousness to it) informed my husband not to wake me up until the pandemic was over….I felt so tired and fatigued….thank you for addressing this….see ya on Thursday night…..
Praising God with you, Marsha! I’m glad that this was helpful. See you on Thursday.
This message comes at a time we all needed to hear. I want to share this with my Bible study group as I know it will help. Thank you
Good! Judi, thank you for commenting and I pray that this leads to a helpful discussion in your Bible study group.
started feeling this way yesterday Barb. I have 2 seniors..one in college and one in highschool. For the college grad this was to be a time of great celebration but not now. For the high school grad things have slowly been canceled but not graduation until yesterday. That along with work and as you say the cooking and washing masks multiple times a week has really taken a toll. Mother’s day is always a time of joy for me even more than birthdays and Christmas..but this year is so so different
Oh Barb, this was me Tuesday morning. I woke up at 5 am, feeling hopeless and alone. So many things out of my control. I did the one thing that didn’t take any thought but could help others. I cut and sewed 16 masks. So far I’ve made 60. Will be making more this weekend. I don’t sell them, but give them to family, Co workers and friends. Thank you for sharing. I’m not broken.. just experiencing PF. Who knew?
Deb, thank you for sharing this! Your words will give such encouragement to other women who are feeling the same. Thank you for making a difference in serving others!
My daughter’s a social worker and my son in law is a paramedic, my granddaughter is 8. My daughter took some time off to minimize the the risk of exposure but they have to take such precautions. We don’t talk about it to each other…it’s always there. I think it’s causing my migraines to flare up. This week I thought I handling everything as usual when I just started
crying on Friday evening I don’t why.
Thinking about it I’m crying now. I’ve been praying for a dear friend who needs some help. I pray for my group members. I quite a list. I your book Surrendered I have not started it yet. I will breathe and pray.
Thank you for listening.
Hi Cathy, thanks for joining the conversation! You and your family are definitely living in a hard situation during the pandemic – and it’s even harder when the words don’t come to express how you all feel about the stress. I’m glad that you were able to read the blog – and I pray that you felt encouraged. Hang in there!
Lisa, it’s soooo hard on a mama’s heart when you don’t get to celebrate your children’s milestones. I’m grieving this with you. Praying that Mother’s Day fills your heart – even if it is different. Thank you for sharing your comment because there are some many women who appreciate that you’ve written exactly how they feel.
Wow! Thank you for this. We were talking about this with my husband the other day, that instead of feeling relaxed o more rested, we feel exhausted most of the time. We have to girls 6 and 1 so there is always something to do. But now I know it’s not just us.
Gods perfect timing for me to read this today. Thank you Barb. I woke up today in the same dark place you described. Reading your experience, Giving it a name— Pandemic fatigue and the techniques to be and breathe and focusing on Gods promises are just what I needed.
That’s so good, Lorinda! I’m so glad that God used this post to illuminate what you’ve been feeling. Praise God!
Thank you for these words of encouragement. They are very timely and quite powerful. I appreciate your courage and willingness to be used by God during this difficult time.
Hi Michelle! I’m so glad that you were encouraged. Thank you for sharing your comment.
Glad to know there’s a name for it: Pandemic Fatigue. I feel better now! lol!. The definition put into words in a simple way what I was not always able to articulate to Rich and Kristi about my feelings, especially the first 4 weeks with so much change taking place. Thank you for sharing this, Barb.
Hi Jenny, thank you for sharing your comment. I felt a lot better once I realized that there was a term for it, too. We’re going to get through this – but it’s good to acknowledge that it’s hard getting through it!
What a on time word! Thank you for your godly advice. It’s time for be to inhale a deep breath of grace! ✨
Hi Joy! Thank you, my friend. It’s been a very loooonnnggg few months for all of us. I’m glad that the post was an encouragement to you.
Feeling the over DONE pit of loneliness after being with family yesterday to celebrate daughter’s birthday and Mother’s Day. It is 3 AM and I want to be able to hug them and still can’t. God’s arms are around me hugging me! This was good to read right now. Thank you for sharing!
I’m reading this today and it is crazy how these things pop up the second you need it. I experienced Pandemic fatigue this morning. I sank onto my bed and just cried. More so for my soon to be 13 yr old daughter who is basically an only child and dealing with social distancing and no friends at the moment. My heart breaks for these kids who have zero control over their social environments. Fortunately she is used to being homeschooled most of her life, she is self-sufficient and can entertain herself for hours on end. What we are missing are the normal summer outings. We are a 4h family so that means fair, meetings, dog practice etc. We did visit my parents last weekend and it was much needed. I could have stayed for a month. So, I have been trying to extend grace to myself, and those around me. It is so hard being the positive one in the “bunch” though. It’s exhausting all around. Thanks for letting me vent. Today was a hard day where failure seemed to abound at every corner. I know God has a well laid plan, I am learning to trust his lead, something that for this type A person finds hard to do…but I know I can let go of the steering wheel so to speak. <3
Hi Kimberly, I’m so glad that you shared your comment. While our country is trying to get back to normal, the pandemic weighs on every part of our life – and so pandemic fatigue is real. Your story about where you’re at right now in life is real – and I know that many can relate to what you’ve shared.