I originally published this post on Friday, April 17, 2020. A year later, this chilly, moody Friday feels the same, but I believe better days are on the way.
I’m tired today. It is Friday, but I can’t recall what I did all week that justifies this fatigue. I barely know what day it is these days.
Looking back on my week, I got up at the same time every day and managed to carry on with my usual morning rituals. I pushed myself to sit down in my home office for a few hours every day. I talked to lots of people on the telephone and welcomed seeing familiar human faces in Zoom meetings.
I didn’t have a lot planned this week, but I expected to get more done. Everything I did took more effort, and I feel drained. How come? Oh, I left out a critical fact – we are in the middle of a global pandemic!
We are many days deep into self-isolating and social distancing. In practical terms, this means on my neighbourhood walks; I cross the street whenever I see another human coming my way.
I wear a mask and gloves to get groceries at Safeway. I am stressed out and irritated by people standing too close in the store. I come home with bags of groceries and wonder if I should have disinfected them before bringing them through my front door.
I then walk around my house, obsessively retracing my steps. I wash doorknobs and light switches and countertops and anything else I may have touched. The constant mantra running through my head is “wash your hands and don’t touch your face. “
And I am one of the fortunate ones. I’m not adjusting to having kids at home all day, while I figure out how to do my job remotely from my kitchen table. I haven’t lost my job and I’m not terrified about how to pay the bills. My workload hasn’t doubled because of layoffs, and I’m not waking up at 4:00 AM, wondering if I’m next.
I’m not an essential worker worried that I might be bringing home the virus. And I’m not riding this out alone, or struggling with physical or mental illness with my family in isolation. All I need to do is stay at home in my comfortable house.
But I’m still personally impacted. I have to remember that collectively we are in survival mode. And whether I am fully aware of it or not, the constant fear-filled messaging around all of this takes its toll. It is easy to underestimate the impact of self-isolation – even under the best of circumstances.
We are all digesting an enormous amount of new (and scary) information and coming to terms with our interdependency with one another. My health, well being and prosperity are inextricably linked to all of you. The slogan “we are all in this together” may sound cliché, but it is true.
This last week, in conversation, I heard concerns about changes in personal productivity, new stresses and struggles with motivation. How to deal with anxiety came up consistently in my conversations this week.
By the end of the week, I got the message – I’m not the only one finding it hard to stay focussed and feeling fatigued.
My lesson this week is to right-size my expectations of myself and others. Our illusions of control are taking a massive hit. Assume everyone is fighting some private battle. People are grieving a range of losses, including me.
Of course, we are exhausted, distracted and on edge. We are in the middle of unprecedented public health and economic crisis. We don’t know what will happen next, how long this will last, or what our world will look like on the other side.
So, cut yourself some slack. Let’s give each other permission to turn down the volume of the overachieving perfectionist voices in our heads.
For starters, it is OK not to be as productive as usual. To hit a wall and get discouraged. To take more time than normal to get things done. And what the heck does “normal” mean now anyway?
It is OK to feel a range of feelings or just to feel numb. We need to pause often to rest and replenish. Double the time you think you need to take to look after yourself. It is OK not to be OK and to need to get some help.
It is also OK to turn off the world for a minute and get excited about the melting snow and other evidence of Spring. And just for today, to simply focus on getting through this one day, and to celebrate small wins.