How are you feeling as we near the first anniversary of COVID-19’s effects on our lives and our community? If you feel as if you’re stuck in a rut that’s not of your own making, a new term I keep seeing will resonate with you: pandemic wall. Let’s explore what it means and what we can do about it.
Burnout is at the center of the “pandemic wall.” It happens when we’re physically and emotionally exhausted after doing something difficult for a long time; it’s a result of prolonged stress. Normally, we would take a break by going on vacation, reaching out to friends, or doing things to relax and forget about stressors. During the pandemic, many of our traditional coping tools aren’t available and those that we do have may not be as reliable as they used to be.
Jessica Gold, MD, MS, explains, “Even if you had effective coping skills [at the beginning], it has been a long time, and sometimes those coping skills stop working.”
During COVID-19 we keep doing the same things repeatedly with little alteration in routines. It feels like days are crawling, yet months have sped by (how has Valentine’s Day already passed?). We’ve plateaued in a sense. To combat pandemic burnout, Gold says listing coping skills that bring you joy “can be helpful for times when you’re anxious or sad.” Include things like enjoyable games, energizing exercises and dishes you like preparing in the kitchen. Choose activities that align with your mood and energy level.
Cut yourself some slack. Don’t demand so much of yourself or “you can feel like you’re never getting anything done which can lead to a lot of negative self-talk,” says Gold. “It’s important to speak to yourself like you would a friend right now. Pause and go, ‘I would not talk to somebody I love like that’.”
If your pre-pandemic life had a sense of rhythm with a schedule that you could count on, get back to that. Write it down if that helps and try to stick to it. Set your alarm, get up and get ready to start your day as you normally did before COVID-19. Even if you’re staying in comfy clothes rather than work attire, the actions of getting up at a set time, showering and dressing are signals that your day is starting. Take breaks for lunch, getting outside and walking/exercising. Be sure to eat at regular times and get back to your typical bedtime routine.
Humans require connection to other humans. Be intentional about scheduling opportunities to interact socially with others but make sure to wear N95 masks and get vaccinated for protection. Check in with people outside of your home. News flash: we CAN meet a friend for a physically distanced walk, even during Ohio’s winter. Bundle up and revel in the fresh air and companionship.
There is not an easy cure for the pandemic wall because so much of what we are experiencing is outside of our control. It’s critical that we choose activities that will positively impact our well-being and that of those around us. We’re resilient by nature and we can bounce back from difficult situations. We’ve got this, Licking County!
Printed in the Newark Advocate on February 28, 2021.