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Recovering from Pandemic Burnout and Fatigue…In Ways That Are Honest and Effective

Recovering from Pandemic Burnout and Fatigue…In Ways That Are Honest and Effective

Many years ago, when I finished writing the manuscript for Bouncing Back and pushed “send” on the computer, I checked in to see what I was feeling after a full year of drafting, editing, polishing…Nothing.

I thought that was odd. I had worked so hard, the last month especially, to meet the publisher’s deadline.  I checked in again the next morning.  Still nothing.  No relief or elation or yippee!  Just nothing. Numb.

It took me a full two weeks to recover from my body’s adrenal fatigue.  All of the revving up and scrambling of my sympathetic nervous system for a full year to write a book and maintain a full-time clinical practice…pooped out.

The parasympathetic branch had to balance things out for a while.  Two weeks of “resting and digesting”. I functioned, going through the motions, but it took time for the relief and re-grouping to turn into ease, joy, celebration, contentment.  Neither returning to the old normal nor discovering a new normal happened overnight.

As vaccinations reach more people, and as restrictions protecting us from the dangers of the coronavirus ease, and as our worlds are opening up again, there are some honest and effective ways to re-emerge and re-engage from the shutdown of the shutdown.

HONEST

As we move into the long yearned for joys of hugging people in person again, seeing them “in 3-D” as my friend Natalie remarked on our first in person visit in 15 months, as we begin to leave our masks in our pockets when gathering outdoors with double vaxxed friends for our first “party” in more than a year, it’s important to hold in awareness the lingering paradoxes of the pandemic, the both/and’s of life and death.  

Small, small, small experience of these paradoxes of life and death. Driving home through Golden Gate Park from yet another resourcing visit to the San Francisco Botanical Garden, I saw a squirrel blithely run in front of my car. I braked and he stopped in his tracks. He lived and I barely had enough time to say a prayer of gratitude when I drove 100 feet on and saw the body of another squirrel already dead on the road in front of me.  Barely five seconds between joy in life and grief in loss.

It’s like that in our world, in the news, every day.

Even as we rejoice that a nephew got to run their first track meet in over a year, we learn of two deaths in neighboring schools, suicides from cyber-bullying.

Even as we begin to breathe more easily, India’s medical system is crashing from the outbreak of new coronavirus cases, 400,000 in one day last week, and the 3,500 year-old culture that taught us all how to breathe in yoga and meditation is now running out of oxygen.

It’s honest to stay awake to the big picture as we re-engage in the slowly expanding picture of our own lives. Not to shut down again, not to retreat or be flooded in despair. Keeping our heart open as we find our ways out of hunkering down and smallifying to stay safe amidst the disruptions we’ve endured for more than a year, into the hope and joy that is the birthright gift of being alive.  

EFFECTIVE

We keep alive “our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world” (Jack Gilbert, “A Brief for the Defense”) through awe and wonder.  That anything exists at all, that spring returns and flowers bloom and children play and people dare to fall in love again. That people live, and people die, and life and love go on and on and on and on. The sheer wonder of all of that.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. His eyes are closed.

– Albert Einstein 

I’m re-posting here one of my favorites entrée’s into awe and wonder, Trees – the Iconic Metaphors for Resilience, 20 inspiring images of trees surviving and thriving under conditions you would not believe. People, too, are thriving now under conditions we can barely comprehend, and the wonder of that is how we ourselves find the courage to re-engage and carry on.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.

– Albert Einstein