The side effect of covid we don’t discuss enough

Does ‘tired’ count as a mood?

Lately, that’s been mine. There’s nothing more frustrating than being unable to summon energy to engage in areas of life that would normally inspire or excite you, and being unable to pinpoint why. And, if you’re like me, you probably make it worse by asking yourself that very question; why?

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Tired does, in fact, qualify as a mood. According to the World Health Organization, emotional exhaustion is a medically classified symptom of burnout. Any number of factors may coalesce to produce emotional exhaustion: uncertainty, high stress, isolation, lack of routine, too much to do, too little to do, constantly adjusting plans… sound familiar? Welcome to 2020.

Recent data tells us that 1 in 3 Americans currently exhibit signs of an anxiety or depressive disorder, compared to about 1 in 10 last year. It’s a distressing statistic, and a wakeup call. We need to broaden our understanding of how COVID-19 may be impacting our collective health, and take steps to mitigate it– before we end up with a different type of national crisis on our hands.

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1// Get back to basics

Are you getting enough sleep? Enough water? Enough nutrition? Often, periods of low energy are rooted in our failure to fulfill our basic needs as we navigate the rush of our day-to-day. A tweak in one of these areas goes further than you may think. And while physical health does not guarantee mental wellness, you cannot have one without the other.

2// Carve out space

I can’t be the only one who has spent an inhumane amount of time with my family recently (sorry gang.) While life during a pandemic can be extremely isolating, it can also be extremely claustrophobic. Young adults find themselves living in their childhood bedrooms, parents find themselves sharing once-quiet homes with grown children, or parenting young children as they simultaneously work full-time jobs. No matter what your situation, it is critical and possible to carve out alone time

3// Find an outlet

Expression is both healing and energizing. Struggling to process? Need some inspiration? Create. Music, drawing, painting, cooking, photography are just a few examples of creative outlets. Think it’s not for you? I challenge you to read this article  from the New York Times about how creativity saved one professional’s life. Even if that’s not your story, picking up a creative hobby may fill a need you did not realize you had.

4// Create normalcy

The number one thing lacking in a post-COVID world? Some semblance of “normal.” While we can’t snap our fingers and make masks go away (nor would we want to given the circumstances) we can fight to preserve pieces of life as we knew them. No, this does not mean do everything you were doing before, just virtually. It means doing things that allow you to forget for a moment that anything has changed. Leave the house to get your favorite latte before settling in for a day of work. Get outside and spend some time in nature. Binge watch your favorite TV show on a Sunday morning. The little things add up.

5// Take the pressure off

Up there on the list of expressions I detest is: “look at the bright side.” Not only does ordering someone to cheer up rarely have the desired effect, it often makes things worse. The only way to move through a low period is to acknowledge it, and doing so does not make us ungrateful. Rather, it allows us permission to heal. Acute stress is a normal response to situations such as, say, a global pandemic. Becoming both aware of and comfortable with our emotional state is the only way we can effectively self-manage.( For my meditation gurus out there, this concept mirrors the noting technique. Only once we recognize an emotion or situation can we let go and move forward.)

Tldr; Remove the pressure to be okay. Right now, there is no ‘right’ way to navigate, no way to outsmart the mess of confusion and uncertainty. To quote Madame Clairevoyant: “stop tying yourself in knots in an attempt to find a right and blameless way to live. There is no perfection, only messy honesty, and right now, that’s enough.”

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Author’s Note: If your emotional state is becoming overwhelming, or you have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety in the past, it’s important to find a professional who can help. There are also a number of resources available 24/7, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) and the Crisis Text Line (741741). Emotional exhaustion may be a precursor to depression & anxiety, but it is not a clinical condition in and of itself.

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