You found your new normal in lockdown and you were doing okay. But six months down the line, you may find that each day seems to become more difficult. The struggle is real. And you’re definitely not the only one feeling this way right now. But according to a report it may help to know that what you’re experiencing is nature’s way of helping you shift your energy to the things that will help you survive in the long run.
Experts who have studied the science of stress say it’s very likely that by this stage of the pandemic, you’ve reached your “surge capacity”. This is the “mental and physical responses humans draw on for short-term survival in stressful experiences.” Put simply, it’s how you managed to adjust to things like work, sleeping, eating, exercising and socializing when we first went into lockdown at the end of March.
But as lockdown drags on (with no sign of it going away anytime soon) they say that the more stress you experience, the more it starts to wear you down, leaving you feeling lethargic, struggling to concentrate and having no interest in things. (Dishes and ironing piling up, what’s for dinner… Just don’t care!)
The science behind our “surge capacity” for handling stress
According to Hans Selye, a medical doctor and researcher who did extensive studies on stress, we typically respond to stress in three stages:
- The alarm reaction
- The stage of resistance
- The stage of exhaustion
When you get this (he called it the General Adaptation Syndrome), and apply it to your personal journey under lockdown, it helps you understand just how all these months of uncertainty, anxiety and stress has impacted your well-being.
In the first stage of the pandemic, which caught the entire world off guard, you reeled back in fright with the fear of catching COVID-19. You had to think and act fast as you tried to figure out the new landscape!
In the second stage, you found ways to adapt and to beef up your resistance to manage all the new facets of life under lockdown. For example, virtual meetings, online shopping, e-learning, and so on.
Now, six months later, and no signs of the pandemic going away, you are exhausted and everything you’ve done to cope, now seems kind of useless.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Experts will tell you that when you can’t change a situation, the only thing you can change is your perception of it. This doesn’t mean giving up! It’s just accepting that life is different now and you need to change how you look at things right now.
Here are 4 ways to shift your energy to what you can manage:
- Maintain and strengthen important relationships. Make time to chat to your mom, an old friend, your elderly neighbour. This includes helping others in any way you can.
- Focus on things you can control right now – not what you can’t, like COVID-19.
- Appreciate the little things that bring you joy, like your baby’s smile, a plant that’s just started blooming, the sound of rain.
- Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you. This could be walking, meditation, gardening, drawing, baking – even simple house projects like replacing all the old light bulbs in the house counts!)
One step at a time
At the end of the day, the only way forward is to slowly take back control of your daily life, one step at a time. This means focusing especially on sleep, nutrition, exercise, self-compassion, gratitude, connection and yes, saying no. If you start really small and work your way up – if you do a little bit every day, it will start to add up so you get a new momentum going again. And if you have an off day here or there, it’s also okay. Just start again.
Content editor and writer on Living & Loving, Sonya has over 25 years experience in the media industry. She edited Living & Loving magazine for six-and-a-half years and is the former editor of Longevity magazine. She’s won numerous media industry awards and is passionate about the health and wellbeing of moms and children.
Outside of work, she enjoys trying out recipes, reading crime mysteries and thrillers, practicing yoga, and exploring new destinations.
Learn more about Sonya Naudé.