Yesterday a wave of sadness overcame me. Why? Because I had to accept that taking my family to England this Christmas was not going to happen – again – because of Covid surges and quarantine restrictions. This was one of my top 4 goals for the year and I started saving for it in 2020. Being in England with my whole family for Christmas has always been one of my year’s must-haves.
I knew I had to let my grief pass through, not repress it. Also yesterday I canceled our family gym membership – again – when re-joining had been such a symbol of hope for health not just for me but my wife too.
More masking. Less going out in public. Keeping one’s distance. Urgh.
Pandemic fatigue: You can all relate and you’ve likely had it worse than me. The anger. The restrictions. The frustrations. The hurt of not seeing important loved ones. The hurt it has had on so many for their livelihood and the millions who have died. And now in Illinois there’s another new variant.
What can you and I do to get the most from life right now? To focus on what we can control besides sensible health measures to prevent us from spreading and/or contracting whatever deadly virus is mutating in our part of the world (which we like to blame on some country at least two continents away!).
1. Accept what is
I probably shouldn't start with one of the hardest ones, but one of the healthiest ways of ‘being’ at any time is to accept what we cannot change. If we keep getting angry, bottle up our frustration, self-medicate through food, drink or drugs, or start blaming what we don’t like on others, nothing good happens.
I’d be the world’s biggest liar if I said I didn’t feel anger, frustration, and deep sadness at times about the hurt I’ve felt because of problems the Pandemic has caused me and people I care about. So I need this recipe as much as the next person.
Tiny Habit (you can customize):
After I feel Pandemic frustration and fatigue,
I will accept my feelings, let them pass, and revisit my priorities for the day (or My PFB List – see next point)
2. Start a PFB (Pandemic Fatigue Buster) List
This is your resourceful list of ways to get your head and spirit back on track. I’d recommend starting this yesterday! Start a list today sometime; I’m positive you already have numerous things you’ve done that have helped. It will reinforce your feelings of self-sufficiency. Then you can start borrowing other people’s ideas too! I will share my list next week.
Make sure to include a Things/People to Avoid Section such as watching the news, scrolling through social media, or spending time with a battery-draining person – activities that typically make us feel worse.
3. Set more goals
Now is precisely the best time to push the envelope on yourself and get your head focused on a positive challenge for more healthy distractions. Physical or business challenges are likely the easiest options.
Please, set more goals. Don’t let this way of thinking rust. If life is not prompting much optimism right now, you need something to get excited about.
What’s an amount of money you’ve never made that would thrill you?
What’s something physical you’ve not done in a while or that would be a fun thing to aim at? Run a certain distance? Do 50 push/press ups? 30 minutes of Ashtanga or Bikram yoga? 10 pull ups? Nudge your way up.
Whenever I’ve felt quite low, setting any goals is really hard. You probably won’t even feel like it. So at least get started with one or two ‘decent’ goals. Then as your mood picks up, keep adding to your list and making them bigger. Be patient with yourself. Hopefully, it doesn’t take months but so what if it does? Small incremental gains work and can be very powerful over time.
Having said all that, the sooner you set what Jack Canfield calls a Breakthrough Goal, the better. Here’s how he defines them:
*It’s an ambitious stretch
*It produces a quantum leap in one area of life
*It’s something you can accomplish in one year
*It should be very compelling for you
*It scares you somewhat
*You aren’t exactly sure how you’re going to reach it
“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes” – Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-born and one of the richest Americans in history.
4. Upgrade some of your habits each month
In the spirit of turning our attention to good things we can control, look for tiny ways to grow in different areas of your life. You can always go big at your pace afterwards.
Beyond health and professional, there’s various key relationships and feeling connected to others, financial habits, spiritual, fun, and community-related habits. Even one new habit helps.
5. Do something uncomfortable that’s good for you
When we shut down, it makes our world smaller quite quickly. Write a list of things that make you uncomfortable that are good for you. Typically, the thing that we are most scared of is what we most need to address in order to live a fuller life. Don’t think, just act.
You may well want to nod your head and ignore this step completely because, well, it’s uncomfortable and hardly anyone likes being uncomfortable. But you know better, don’t you? You weren’t put on this earth to shirk letting your best self stand up and avoid saying ‘count me in’ Great. Add something uncomfortable to your list. Remind me to report back next week as I need this too!
6. Schedule a micro ‘adventure’ and Future Adventures List
This is one of the things almost no one is doing, so think it through. Where is somewhere you could go that would feel like at least a micro adventure?
Since most of us cannot access a hiking trail to Mount Kilimanjaro, maybe also work on that Future Adventures list too. Again, you want your imagination staying active not retreating into permanent fear.
7. Focus on how you can uplift others
As important as all these points are, they all focus on self-care so that you can be in a better place to do what really matters in life – which is how you can make a positive difference for others. They all focus on you putting on your own oxygen mask first.
But where you really forget about Pandemic Fatigue is when you connect to your purpose and stop being self-absorbed about all the things that aren’t working the way you want them to.
This is why I couldn’t wait to write this. Last year what shot me out of self-pity and worry shortly after the Lock Down began was being asked to present to a large company about healthy habits. It forced me to take a leadership role and think only of ways to uplift. It did me a huge favour and got me back on a positive track very quickly.
It might not be the worst idea if you do the same thing: offer to present to a group of people about healthy ways to manage Pandemic Fatigue. Even if you share some unsolicited tips or your own PFB LIst, I am quite sure people would appreciate your ideas.
Either way, increase your focus on what you can do to help other loved ones and clients.
8. Avoid trying to be perfect
The Pandemic has its unseen ways of seriously depleting us emotionally (my feelings yesterday were very real), so I am a fan of small luxuries or treats to keep us psychologically balanced. Some chocolate, a favourite dessert, a glass of wine, a favourite beer or scotch – cheers! Moderation, right?
This is a marathon not a sprint. After you know you’ve given your all, allow time to recharge, or take a small step back and let the negative emotions flow out of you. Don’t repress them because your body will hold all this and it will come back to you down the road in the form of unpleasant health conditions like migraines, irritable bowel, back problems, or acid reflux.
The real point to dealing with Pandemic Fatigue, as with any other season in your life, is to focus on the things you can control and not the things you cannot; to focus on what you want and not what you don’t want.
It is a bumpy road, and you will need other people to be there for you at times so make sure you have a few of them!
All feedback on this is appreciated. You are not alone!!!
Next week I’ll share my PFB list.
Please share this with someone your gut thinks might appreciate it – even if you’re not sure.
To resilience and optimism!