You don’t have to be a front-line medical worker or someone who has lost a loved one to Covid-19 to experience an intense emotional response to the coronavirus pandemic. Have you experienced any of these vague complaints in recent weeks?
Disrupted sleep Unexplained fatigue
Irritability Increased alcohol consumption Difficulty concentrating Low motivation
Lack of focus Overeating
Most of us are experiencing emotional fallout from these highly unusual and turbulent times. It can feel like we are adrift on the ocean having lost sight of land. At times there is a boring expanse of foggy grey nothingness followed moments later by rough waves that knock us down and take our breath away.
Sometimes it takes the form of a persistent apathy or aimlessness; an inability to get started on the things you would like to be accomplishing with all this extra time. Sometimes it’s impatience, taken out on those closest to us, who now seem much more irritating than usual. Often it does comes in waves, with a sudden sense of sadness or an overwhelming desire to take a nap. One person described it as feeling like there is a powerful app running in the background of her brain and constantly draining her battery. Some people wander from one room to another in a fog, sometimes starting but seldom finishing anything substantial. And cocktail hour seems to start earlier and earlier.
The answer to the question is that there is nothing wrong with you. These feelings and responses are an absolutely normal response to the stress we are all under right now. Our lives have been turned upside down, with so much change that we can feel disoriented.
There are constant headlines about the dangers of this pandemic and the damage caused by it. There is uncertainty. And, perhaps most significantly, there is great loss. Not only the loss of too many lives, but also the loss of schedules and routines, careers and livelihoods, and the loss of our sense of safety. There are graduations and weddings postponed, vacations cancelled, savings accounts dwindling, and for some the loss of a sense of purpose.
The idea of an app draining your brain battery is an apt analogy, since some part of our brain is constantly working in the background to process all of these changes and losses, and trying to predict an uncertain future. The brain power that goes into processing danger, loss and uncertainty reduces the energy available for daily tasks.
It is important to know that experiencing these physical, emotional and behavioral reactions at this time is both universal and temporary. We are not in this alone. And it will not last forever. Although we don’t know how long the journey will be, we are all in the same boat, holding on tightly, crossing choppy waters toward a barely visible shoreline, but making slow and steady progress toward a safer, less stressful and more stable (and sane) future. We will get there. Together.
(If you have previously struggled with with anxiety or depression and/or are experiencing feelings and reactions that are interfering with your ability to function normally, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free stress assessment.)