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Easing pandemic fatigue

Are you experiencing fatigue? I don’t mean feeling tired; I mean feeling fatigued.

We’ve all felt tired at times — the result of overextending ourselves physically, emotionally or mentally. Emotionally, maybe we’ve spent countless hours worrying over our job, relationships or our finances, to name just a few. The emotional strain can cause sleepless nights, having noticeable physical repercussions such as slowing our reaction time and lessening our endurance at anything we attempt. Even taking a short walk may seem taxing, and mentally concentrating as deeply as previously seems impossible.

To remedy how we’re feeling, we might sit down in a chair and doze off for a while. When we awaken, we feel a little refreshed and either return to our previous task or change our focus for a bit, allowing our muscles, our mind or our emotions to recuperate. Maybe we even decide to go to bed a little earlier tonight.

When we’re tired, we usually can recover in a few hours or a day or a few days. But with fatigue … fatigue is different.

From my own experience, with fatigue there is no refreshment after a nap; everything’s the same. Physically, I feel the same. Mentally, I feel the same. Emotionally, I feel the same. Even a good night’s sleep doesn’t chase the fatigue away. I feel I’m in a rut and can’t dig myself out. My thoughts take on a negative slant. I feel like a “blob.”

Fatigue can wash over me like a freight train being blown by the wind. There’s a profound heaviness in my body. I don’t want to do anything — nothing excites me, nothing interests me. It may take weeks or even months for the fatigue to gradually disappear. It’s not immediate like flipping a switch, no matter what the cause.

Fatigue can be a symptom of a particular disease or the side effect of a medication or vaccine. It can be caused by a serious diagnosis we’re called upon to deal with for ourselves or for another.

The process of grieving over the death of a loved one, a relative, a friend, a pet can be the source. And we know how long grieving can take. There is no timeline for grief. And we wonder when it will end … or does it ever end.

The loss of a job or of a home, as many have had to deal with during these COVID days and before, can bring on the fatigue state. We might even experience a loss of hope, the most devastating loss of all.

“Pandemic fatigue” is real. It exists. We have been shut in and shut out for a year with little physical contact. Our mask hides our uplifting smiles as we stand in line at a store or walk along the sidewalk. We move quicker, focused on our mission — get in and get out as quickly as possible. We’ve lost spontaneity in our lives and technology cannot replace that human physical contact.

Whatever the cause, fatigue can be debilitating. We have so little energy that we don’t want to see people. We can’t muster the energy to carry on a conversation or pretend to be present to anyone. It’s like our brain has gone to sleep and we don’t have the energy to think, no less plan. Motivation disappears, as do many desires.

I have found that journaling my feelings helps me begin the move out of that state. Putting my feelings into the written word allows me to stop carrying so much inside. I’ve moved it OUT THERE. The very act of writing it all down is a transition from inside of me to outside of me. I’ve given myself permission to feel the way I have expressed it. AND IT’S OK.

I also turn to Mother Nature. I can take myself outside to sit in the air, feeling the wind blow through my hair. And I can do this no matter where I live. I can feel the sun warm my face like a pleasant kiss and, upon closing of it. I can listen to the birds and marvel as I hear their calls blend, watching them dip and dive as they search for food. I can catch the scent of lilacs in the wind, relaxing me. I can get lost in the moment …

I can look around and see life, hear life, smell life, feel life. I can allow myself to feel alive again. Sustaining myself with Mother Nature’s whole organic foods in a rainbow of colors will indeed help me to recover healthily, even if I seem to have lost my appetite. And hydrating with plenty of spring water can increase my energy, too, as I rid myself of built-up toxins.

The key here is to focus on the positives around us even as we feel weighted down with fatigue.

Above all, we need to remember to be gentle with ourselves, trying not to have any self-expectations. Putting a time limit on our recovery doesn’t help any of us. Our body needs to recuperate, and it will in its own time, with our help. We can only give it the support it needs to do so.

Experiencing fatigue has given me a new perspective on life. I have a deeper appreciation of the energetic times when there was energy to THINK and DO and BE. The energy to HELP others, BE THERE for others, DO for others did return. But so did having a deeper understanding of myself and other people. And a certain caution against becoming too tired in my everyday living.

The term “pandemic fatigue” encompasses the strain of not seeing others, not going places, not having the stimuli we need in our lives as humans. Everything seems routine. An old saying, “Variety is the spice of life,” can lend itself to what has been lacking in our lives during this pandemic.

So let’s journal our feelings and begin that transition back to health by sitting outside or taking a walk each day, listening to the birds, breathing in the fresh air and being thankful. As we open our lungs and allow Mother Nature to fill us, we can open our hearts and allow hope to rush in. And in doing so, we can turn the tide for ourselves and others. We’ll begin to WANT to do something, WANT to see someone, WANT to help someone else. And we can again revel in that feeling of desiring a fuller life. For when we help others, we help ourselves and achieve a life filled with love and purpose.

Debby Havas lives in Jay.

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