March 2020 started out with excitement, our oldest daughter was going to be coming home from college for Spring Break. We had plans for spending time together, but I can’t remember what they were. What I do remember is after my daughter arrived home, we received a letter from the Health Department stating that our second daughter was quarantined at home until March 27, 2020 due to 3 cases of COVID-19 at their school. We were devastated, but little did we know this was only the beginning. For me some of the timelines are mixed up in mind. What I do know is that it was unlike anything I had experienced before. Schools moved to distance learning to slow the spread of COVID-19, but no one knew what they were doing. My oldest daughter did an emergency transfer with her job to the location here.
As if the chaos of a pandemic was not enough, on the morning of March 18th, I was standing in the kitchen getting ready to make a protein shake, when there was a loud sound followed by shaking. I started screaming and trying to close cupboards, while my husband yelled at me from the other room to get out of the kitchen. 2 of our 3 children where in the basement. Fear overcame me and I went into fight or flight. Once I knew my family was okay, we started checking on others and helping where we could. The more I help others they less anxious I felt.
We had just had a 5.7 Earthquake with the epicenter 2 miles from our home in Magna. It was the largest earthquake I had experienced. My husband and oldest daughter had to go into work, as our two youngest and I stayed home. It was a day filled with aftershocks and uneasiness.
As I look at that day I found the timing a blessing. My family was all under one roof and we were safe. There was minimal damage to our home.
STAY HOME STAY SAFE ordinances were put in place in our State and most of the country,causing us all to go into survival mode. My husband and daughter started working from home. Grocery Stores had empty shelves, there was a shortage of toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and more. Once again I found myself in fight or flight mode, looking forward to going back to normal in a few weeks. Once again I found it best to get lost in the service of other as a way to cope with the anxiety I was feeling.
In April, we did a quick overnight trip to move our daughter home from college since they would not be returning to in person classes. I started realizing this was going to be our new normal.
I continued to look outward as my way of coping, but by the middle of July I started struggling. Our middle child has a rare disease so we had to be careful, but it started taking it’s toll not only on me but on the whole family. We missed doing stuff, spending time with our friends, attending church and all the things we had taken for granted before. Serving others was no longer helping me cope, instead it became overwhelming.
The best way to describe it is burnout. Our family and I believe the world is burnt out from the pandemic and everything else that is going on the the world. The world is filled with fear, anger, hate, and negativity. It is taking its toll on us physically and mentally.
Recently a friend posted the following article “Your ‘Surge Capacity’ Is Depleted — It’s Why You Feel Awful” which states. In those early months, I, along with most of the rest of the country, was using “surge capacity” to operate, as Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, calls it. Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. But natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely.” It then goes on to ask “How do you adjust to an ever-changing situation where the ‘new normal’ is indefinite uncertainty?”.
That truly is the question. How do we adapt to the ‘new normal’ when it continues to change and it is uncertain? The article that suggests the following:
- Accept that life is different right now
- Expect less from yourself
- Recognize the different aspects of grief
- Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you
- Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships
- Begin slowly building your resilience bank account
I highly recommend reading the article for more information on these suggestions. And I want to add a few of my own:
Focus on self-care
When we fly the flight attendant tells us in the event of an emergency place your mask on first and then assist others. I have come to realize because I was focusing on others first I ran out of steam. If I take care of myself first with proper rest, nutrition, exercise, and fun, I have more to give others. When my reserves got low, I burnt out.
Focus on gratitude
Find 3 or more things each day you are grateful for and write them down. As you reflect on what you have rather than what you don’t it help shift your energy.
Focus on what you are learning
By writing down something you learn during the day, you will see progress rather than feeling stuck or stagnant.
Focus on the positive
Turn off the news, walk away from social media. Look for the good in people. Spread cheer, kindness, and love. When you can maintain social distance keep your mask off so you can smile at people.
Focus on making a difference
It’s all about finding ways to make a difference at home, in the community, and in the world. A couple of my friends and I have decided to focus on pursuing good for the next year. We have chosen the following themes and #’s:
- September #PursueKindness – Random acts of kindness
- October #PursueFun – Creating fun, sharing fun, doing what is fun
- November #PursueGratitude – Showing and Sharing gratitude
- December #PursueConnection – Finding ways to stay connected or reconnect
- January #PursueWellness – Physical and Mental health and well-being
- February #PursueLove – Show and Share love
- March #PursueMe – All about self-care
Focus on being
We burnout because we are so busy doing, that we forget who and what we are. We are human beings, not human doings, so take time to be still, be quite, be patient, be happy, be kind, be loving, etc.
Know that you are not alone in this fight, flight, and burnout. We are all experiencing the shift in the world together. We don’t know what to do, or when it is going to end, but we can take better care of ourselves and then help others.