Are you feeling emotionally exhausted?
Since March 2020, not a day goes by without the mention of COVID-19. It has been, and is, relentless. Information - some based on facts - some not - is everywhere. Everyone has an opinion - usually a strong one. There seems to be nowhere to hide to get some peace.
Bombarded and pummelled
I have heard it described as our minds being bombarded and pummelled - what powerful words these are, creating a real sense of 'too much' and overwhelm. So many instructions, all designed to keep us and other people safe and alive. Our intellects understand (up to a point) but our emotions move between, anxiety, anger, sadness, shock, disbelief, feeling low, stressed, confused and much more.
I was struck during lockdown one how many people seemed to take it in their stride - apparently making sourdough bread, learning a new language, tidying up their homes, learning how to use Zoom and expecting that 'it would all soon be alright.'
Back then we wouldn't have believed we would still be in a pandemic in 2021. Perhaps it is a good thing that we didn't know - there is only so much we can take.
Lockdown two and three
These happened very quickly, moving through a series of tiers, I remember a visceral response and a sense of 'this is too much - I can't think.' In the last few months the emotions I am noticing, as I speak with people, are stress, anxiety, feeling low, and weary. I have also noticed physical manifestations including upset stomachs, headaches, tension in the jaw from teeth clenching, pain in the shoulders and back. There is a very real fear about children's mental health, education, work, finances and much more.
At the start of lockdown, I didn't know anyone who had COVID-19. It is so different now speaking to those who have experienced it - the exhaustion, loss of smell and taste, struggle to breathe, fear of long-COVID, the death of loved ones. The distress is palpable.
There is an advert on the television at the moment inviting us to look into the eyes of those who are suffering with or working with those affected by COVID-19. We look - we look away - we look back - it is unbearable - yet we know that these are real people and it matters and we are all impacted one way or the other.
Collective and personal grief
We are all experiencing grief - shock, disbelief, bargaining, anger, anxiety, sadness and more. Like all grief it is painful, messy and unpredictable, without a known end date.
The grief is not only happening in individual lives, it is happening in families, workplaces and communities worldwide. For all of us, our grief matters and we will experience it in a unique way depending on our individual circumstances and environment.
Self-care and nurture
When things are chaotic and the world as we knew it has changed beyond recognition, we find ourselves in unchartered territory. It can feel very frightening and we may feel frozen and powerless. It is important to consider what actions we can take to look after ourselves.
I would suggest that we don't gorge on the news, real or fake.
Whilst we do need to be informed, there needs to be some balance to this. It can be helpful to feed our minds with things that are nourishing - this can be books, meaningful conversations with those that we love and love us, being out in nature - even in winter it is very beautiful and peaceful to immerse ourselves in the changing scenery.
We need these - more than ever. We may be socially distanced at the moment but it is vital that we connect emotionally to people who will listen, hear, be kind and validate our experience.
It is crucial that we have a place where we can be quiet. I recognise that with families together in lockdown this can be really difficult. Talking to and listening to one another to negotiate ways to have a break can be very helpful. Our minds need to have some space to process as best as they can in these challenging times.
Holding on to hope
Although it may seem as though we haven't made any progress, each day we are alive is a new day with fresh possibilities. There is still so much to be thankful for and noticing this can alleviate some of the heaviness that can overwhelm.
Be kind and gentle
Notice your thoughts and what you are saying to and about yourself and other people. Being critical won't help. This isn't a time for 'be strong', 'get on with it', 'stop complaining', 'pull yourself together.' If we do that it is much harder to be able to think clearly about the best way forward.
Ask for help
I have noticed so much kindness and willingness to notice and help those that we may not have spoken to before. Look out for other people - offer support if you can. If you need support from others - please ask.
How counselling can help
Counselling offers a quiet place to talk and be heard. If you need this, do reach out to a professional. This is a sign of strength, not weakness.