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.