New Zealand may have been spared the extended periods of Covid restrictions that some countries are having, but it is very apparent that the pandemic has taken a toll on Kiwis too. Even though we’ve had few cases in our own community, what the pandemic has done everywhere is bring a LOT of uncertainty about some pretty fundamental things like our own health, our livelihood, our financial future and the sort of world we’ll be living in from now on. And of course, we have had a lot of uncertainty about day-to-day things like “Shall I book a holiday?” and “Are the kids getting enough schooling?”.
Now that we are 12 months down the pandemic track, if you are feeling tired, frustrated, sad or anxious and generally “over it”, it is not just you. “Pandemic Fatigue” is a new term that is starting to be used to describe the very real feelings of stress and exhaustion stemming from the day-to-day effects of living through this event. People are reporting changed sleeping or eating patterns, feeling on edge, having a shorter fuse and being stressed by tasks (and emotions) that they used to manage well.
So how can the Mindfulness skill of self – observation help identify and manage Pandemic Fatigue?
Observe your thoughts
We are not our thoughts, but our thoughts can massively influence us if we allow them to. Frenzied thoughts and worrying are a sign of stress and generally result in knee – jerk reactions rather than helpful responses. Look at your thoughts without judgement and if they are anxious, ask yourself: Is this true? How likely is this to happen? Is this worry because I feel powerless to change anything? What can I do right now that will help me feel better? What plan can I make to deal with this if it happens? Aim to be an accurate thinker instead of an anxious thinker.
Observe your body
Our body is a mirror of our mind (and our mind is a mirror of our body!). Whenever you sit down or stand up or walk, notice how your body feels. If it is tense, take a deep breath and relax. The more tension there is in your body, the more tension there will be in your mind. A relaxed body thinks more clearly, responds more healthily and bounces back more easily from stressful situations.
Observe your feelings
Notice your emotions and allow yourself to feel what you feel, instead of trying to reject it. Unpleasant feelings are a part of you as much as the pleasant ones are, and they’re all meant to be felt – even anger and despair – because that’s how you receive the vital information they bring. Aim to accept all your feelings - even if they don’t seem logical - and be curious about why you are feeling them.
Observe your social patterns
Notice if you have been reaching out to friends or family or if you have started isolating yourself. There’s a difference between deliberate healthy quiet time where you just sit in silence without distractions for 10 minutes and hiding away because you don’t want other people to see that you are feeling crappy. One proven approach that will help you feel better is to connect regularly in a meaningful way with other people eg through a community project or group activity (even if it’s online).
Observe the expectations you have of yourself
Don’t force yourself to be happy or stay on top of everything all the time (and notice if you unwittingly expect yourself to be ‘super – person’). If you have been Covid-stressed for some time, continuing to push yourself to do more will only make the fatigue worse. Allow yourself to be less than perfect and make mistakes. Allow yourself to not have all the answers and not be at maximum output There is great value in being considerate and compassionate towards yourself because it helps the body and mind to return to a better state, from where you can then make a healthy re assessment of priorities.
Observe where you spend your day
The stress-relieving effects of being outside and sleeping enough have been proven over and over. Notice if you are spending all your time inside – including inside a car - and make it a priority to have contact with nature every day and eight hours in bed every night.
And remember these truths: Nothing lasts forever; this thing that is so hard right now will pass. And however you are feeling, don’t judge yourself for craving relief.
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