A second pandemic is sweeping the nation. I don’t know how contagious it is, but I know it’s spreading.

Exhaustion.

You recognize the symptoms. The big sigh after you hear that the pandemic may be going on for more months. Random thoughts like: “I’m tired,” or “It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” or “Enough is enough.”

Too many things stuck on the to-do list. (I use the excuse “Covid-brain.”) The world feeling gloomy on a beautiful blue-sky day. Zero desire to diet or get in shape despite the arrival of five new Covid pounds.

Mostly, you’re just tired.

(For a blessing, skip to the end.)

The end of the stay-cation

For some, the pandemic has had tragic consequences. For others, the start of the pandemic felt like a stay-cation, an opportunity to pull back from the world, spend more time at home, and take a break, at least initially.

So if we have been resting more, why are we exhausted? (I say we. I mean I. But it might be you, too.)

If you had to take care of children at home, work 8 hours a day over Zoom, navigate life for your elderly parent or sick relative, or had Covid, I don’t even have to ask you why you are exhausted.

What about the rest of us? We need a new word (help me, please!) to  describe the following:

“Inexplicable bouts of extreme exhaustion, not attributable to any particular thing but influenced by many forces including the state of the world.”

Diagnosing Covid-19 related exhaustion

The first thing in recovery is to acknowledge that what you feel is real, even if you don’t think you have sufficient reason to be exhausted.

Me, I’m having trouble sorting out my personal fatigue from world weariness. The state of the planet presses on me like a low cloud cover on a day when the barometric pressure has dropped. Heavy.

Here is a questionnaire to help you diagnose the source of your fatigue.

Do you think the source of your fatigue is related to:
(Check all the apply)

  1. Health challenges, including lack of sleep. (By the way, sleep is mandatory.)
  2. Questionable nutrition (e.g., not enough kale or not enough milkshakes, depending on your preferences.)
  3. The expectation that the pandemic was supposed to be done by now.
  4. The rage at seeing big gatherings with unmasked people congregating.
  5. The state of the environment, politics or Black Lives Matter, knowing that nothing is likely to be resolved by September.
  6. Empathy. Someone close to you is suffering and/or you’re feeling sad for those you don’t know, who are suffering.
  7. Caregiving. You’re tired from taking care of someone you love. Or, someone you love is feeling tired, which makes you tired.
  8. You miss doing something you loved. (Seeing your grandbaby. That leisurely indoor cup of coffee. Face-to-face yoga classes.)
  9. A conspiracy. You’ve learned that Dr. Fauci is responsible for inventing the virus and spreading it around the globe.

If you checked any of the answers, except 9, I empathize. If you checked 9, go rest immediately. Take a pill if needed.

Please place any rumors about Dr. Fauci in a tightly lidded (garbage) can along with ideas like:

  • The liberals are behind this.
  • Masks make you sick.
  • The Chinese started this to do us in.
  • The Visigoths are about to stage a comeback.

How tempting it is to want to blame someone. It can relieve some pressure while leading to bigger problems (like wasting money on a wall to keep out Visigoths).

Of course, there’s always the hoped-for magic pill, which is why I continue buying supplements.

Unfortunately, what we’re being asked to do is a lot harder: ENDURE. No magic bullet. No quick fix. Damn!

What to do

In the face of it all, what we can do is to sleep, eat, exercise–all that good stuff.

In addition, prepare a list of what renews you. If you wait till you’re feeling exhausted it might be too late. At those moments, I forget that I love to take walks at dusk, sing to the horses, laugh at cat videos, and watch sunflowers grow. Lying on the couch is all that occurs to me, although that’s not necessarily a bad option.

Then, at the top of your list, in BOLD letters, write SELF COMPASSION. We did not ask for this. It’s going on “too long.” The consequences are still unknown and they don’t look good. Bravo to you for facing all this and still finding a way to laugh. Or drink a root beer float.

Last weekend my husband and I signed up for the Disney Channel so that we could watch the film version of Hamilton. After that, we tried The Sound of Music. I highly recommend it. Beautiful sites. Images of Salzburg. Music you can sing along with. And a happy ending. Maybe I’ll do Bambi next.

An Irish Blessing

Whatever’s in your survival kit, I offer you this by John O’Donohue, the great Irish giver of blessings:

For One Who Is Exhausted, a Blessing

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

Here’s to finding joy in your senses, the silence, or a bit of slow time.

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