Like anyone else with a social media account, I have been seeing a lot of people sharing the things they have been doing during the pandemic. Some have been learning new things, others have been taking up new hobbies, and some people have been reaching out to someone different every day. It’s kind of exhausting to think about.
When we post on social media, we like to share the pretty side of things. With my work with my clients, I have seen something else. We are all feeling pressure to be productive, even while we are feeling like we have less energy than ever before, and we’re being hard on ourselves for not using this time the way we feel we “should” be.
Do you find yourself wondering why you’ve been feeling unmotivated even though you have more time on your hands? You’re stressed. Whether you’re still working or not, whether you’re caring for a family or not, and whether you’ve been personally affected by Coronavirus or not, you’re stressed.
I know you’ve heard it already, but we are experiencing “unprecedented times.” What this means for our brains is that they are working overtime to try and understand what’s going on and how we are going to adjust. Every day the news says something different, we hear new numbers, and we have to make changes to our expectations about what life is going to look like for the foreseeable future. This takes a lot of mental effort and energy that we might otherwise have devoted to other tasks.
During this pandemic, a lot of us have been experiencing a constant state of fight or flight. We know there is a threat to our livelihood and we don’t know what to do about it. So we remain in this limbo stage as we wait to see what is going to happen next.
When we are this stressed for such an extended period of time, it takes a real toll on our brains and bodies. When we are anxious, upset, or worried about something, our bodies release a stress hormone called Cortisol. Usually, this is a short-lived experience, and the cortisol helps us know that there is a threat so we can solve the problem quickly. What looks different right now is that we’ve been stressed out for almost 2 months. When we are exposed to cortisol at such levels for such a lengthy amount of time, it can result in symptoms like anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep problems, and memory and concentration impairment, as shared in this article by the Mayo Clinic.
Do you feel drained? Do you feel less motivated? Are you having trouble paying attention to things? Are you feeling anxious or trying to numb certain feelings by zoning out, spending all your free time watching Netflix? Are you having trouble sleeping or getting more headaches? These are symptoms of extended stress.
The bottom line here is that your body is doing what it knows to do in order to cope with all the uncertainty we're experiencing. Being upset with yourself for not being as productive as you used to be is going to feed the cycle. So I’m going to invite you to try something else.
Give yourself some compassion. Cut yourself some slack. Treat yourself with grace. You’re going through something tough and that last thing you need is to beat yourself up for how you’re handling it. The next time you catch yourself thinking negatively about your response to this crisis, try to pause and thank your body for taking care of you.
It’s doing its best.
So are you.
Written by our counselors to help promote your help, hope, healing