Written by Meredith Roudebush-Albaugh, MSW, LCSW
Do you find yourself feeling more tired than usual? Have you noticed that you are taking more frequent naps since the start of the pandemic? You are not alone. Many of us are finding ourselves sleeping in as late as possible and skipping our morning shower as we fire up our laptops to begin the workday from home. Sure, it’s nice to skip out on the Southern California traffic and not have to worry about the rush of dropping off our kids at school, but why are we feeling so tired even with all of this extra sleep?
One explanation is that our fatigue is a trauma-based response to the persistent stress of living in the midst of a pandemic. We are under prolonged stress, which exhausts us physically, mentally and emotionally. When we experience stress, our bodies naturally tense up, we “brace for impact”, so to speak, as we prepare for the worst to happen. We wait for the “bottom to fall out”. And as the pandemic persist, we keep waiting, we keep tensing, and we keep stressing. After days, weeks, months of this, the prolonged stress has a significant impact on our energy levels. After gyms closed and we shifted our exercise to the outdoors, many of us had to stop hiking, jogging and running due to the low air quality due to the wildfires. The lack of exercise has only increased both stress levels and fatigue.
Those of us who have children at home have also begun functioning as pseudo-teachers as the real Educators “zoom in” to class every day with our children, who complete school on chrome books from their bedrooms. We receive emails about “missing assignments”, which our children have claimed to have turned in, as we navigate the technological jungle of tracking their progress with their completed work and maintaining accountability with their teachers.
What I have described are merely the trivial struggles associated with living in the midst of a pandemic, not even touching on the agony of those who have suffered with COVID-19, or lost loved ones as a result of this terrible virus. Yet, even these seemingly trivial struggles impact us in a very traumatic manner.
So, what should we do? How do we get our energy back? There are several things we need to do to get back on track:
1. First, we must implement structure and routine into our daily lives to bring order to the chaos that has taken over. Structure and routine also help in providing a sense of purpose and meaning in our day-to-day lives. And purpose and meaning help in increasing motivation.
2. We must also begin exercising again to bring back the stamina that we’ve lost through sleeping in and watching too much Netflix. (And thank God for Netflix, am I right?? I’m not sure how I would have gotten through the stay-at-home order without my many streaming subscriptions and the availability of digital books!).
3. It is also important to engage in hobbies that we can participate in while social distancing. Even if we do not feel like engaging in hobbies, choosing to engage anyway will help in “jump-starting” the feel-good chemicals in the brain so that we not only start feeling better, but eventually the desire to engage in those activities will also return.
4. Additionally, social interaction is of critical importance, but it must be done in the manner of social distancing. As human beings, we long for connection. We need to feel understood and to know that we are not alone, and social distancing has fractured human interaction to a degree where we are physically more alone than ever before. So, let us reach out to each other through phone calls and video chats. Texting was great when we were overloaded with human interaction, but now that we are starved of human contact, we need to see each other again, but in a way that will not expose us to the virus. Let us use FaceTime, Messenger Video, Skype, Zoom and any other platform we prefer to connect with each other as human beings.
We need each other. We will get through this together!
Written by: Written by Meredith Roudebush-Albaugh,
MSW, LCSW 93318