Think fast, respond honestly: how are you doing?
If you’re like me, the answer is somewhere between meh and miserable. The initial energy sparked by the urgent adjustment to pandemic life has died off.
Mask-wearing, homeschooling, social distancing, and working remotely is the norm. Resistance feels futile, as the virus spikes without that vigilance.
And so, what’s left is acceptance, which is the last stage of grief. Even if you’re lucky enough to have not lost a loved one, we’re all mourning something: routine, income, space, live music, motivation, patience, focus. The gamut is wide, yet the loss is personal.
When uncertainty is the only sure thing, the struggle is real. And it’ll take something stronger than self-care alone to shake off the malaise.
Surge capacity under siege
Wondering when you’ll adjust to the “new normal”? The good news is if you’re running on empty, you’re probably already there.
Psychologist and resilience expert Ann Masten, PhD, explains that humans use “surge capacity” — a combination of physical and mental adaptive practices — for short-term survival in a crisis. Prolonged trauma blocks your ability to renew that vital energy:
It’s important to recognize that it’s normal in a situation of great uncertainty and chronic stress to get exhausted and to feel ups and downs, to feel like you’re depleted or experience periods of burnout.
This is especially true if you’re a Type A personality who thrives on productivity. The kind of wreckage we’re facing is “ambiguous loss,” a term pioneered by family therapist Dr. Pauline Boss.
With our way of life upended, routine and habits aren’t there to fall back on. There are, however, some helpful paths forward.
How to power through
While it’s easy to get overwhelmed by how different life is, getting mired in the gap between what is and what you wish it were is fertile ground for mental health issues to take root. Stop sowing that space by first trying radical acceptance. If you can fully embrace that things suck for now, you can redirect that fretting energy elsewhere.
Finding meaning and purpose from a new vantage point is something we at midlife can relate to. And using “both-and” thinking can help.
For example, you can acknowledge both the pandemic’s brutal losses and appreciate that it has brought people closer together. It’s these connections that can help you rebuild your “resilience bank account,” along with tending to the self-care that recharges your batteries, like getting enough sleep, nutrition, exercise, meditation, and self-compassion.
The point is, nothing today is as simple as plug and play. Without the usual outlets available, the best way to fill your tank is to remember to be kind to yourself.