“I feel like I’m having hourly moral dilemmas just trying to navigate my normal day. It’s exhausting!”
My sister’s words gave voice to all of the excruciating physical and metaphorical headaches I’ve been having this past month. The sentiment of being tired, exhausted, drained, weary, depressed (add your synonym here) has been shared across every community that I’m a part of, and I certainly have been feeling it all myself. But I hadn’t been able to put a clear point on the exact reason why until that conversation with my sister.
We are all living in a reality where all the patterns of behavior that used to be relegated to our automatic subconscious systems, are now having to be reviewed, questioned again and worked through in brand new ways. A massive amount of re-wiring is occurring in our brains.
Daily routines that we took for granted like driving to the grocery, gathering with friends, and going to work are completely disrupted. They have become decisions that require our slower thinking, and energy-draining frontal lobe to engage in, wrestle with, and ultimately live with, in a state of foggy dissonance. We never get the clear resolve that our brains so desperately seek we are making the right choices. And every day as the pandemic scenario changes with new data we are condemned to repeat this exercise, over and over again, often with no clearer resolutions.
Our brains are constantly having to run complex cost/benefit analyses on once simple formulas. Should I go to the grocery? Is it worth the risk for myself? To others? How many more days can I survive on Ramen? Everyone is experiencing some level of decision fatigue. The more conscious decisions we make in the day (especially without clear data), the more worn down we become. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
If you’re struggling right now and don’t have the words for it, start by showing yourself a little compassion. Every individual’s struggle is real. I sit here now feeling secure and safe with a roof over my head, and food in my refrigerator, and a loving family by my side, and so frequently I feel guilty about my own “suffering.” But as Brene Brown so expertly points out, this type of comparative suffering doesn’t help anyone. In fact not feeling your own suffering because you don’t think it’s valid or important enough knowing that others have it worse, actually makes your suffering worse. When you don’t give your exhaustion a voice, you add to your loneliness. “Pain is pain. It’s all real.” So feel it. Allow yourself to be tired. Take mental breaks. You’re working really hard every day. Even if your work output isn’t what it used to be, or you’re a bit less tolerant with your kids or significant other, allow yourself permission to breathe. Your brain is working in overdrive. Give yourself the kind of compassion you would give a friend…and then go take a nap!