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Pandemic Fatigue

pandemic fatigue

Back in January 2020, I sat down to draft some personal and professional goals for the year, as I know many people do. Pencil and paper in hand, super pregnant, I neglected to add “navigate a global pandemic” to my list of hopeful future achievements. At the time, I was excited to attend the Schwab IMPACT conference in October. I looked forward to traveling to San Diego, soaking in all the information I could on industry trends, investments, practice management, and other financial topics. Of course, as we fast forward to the present, the conference ended up being virtual, along with most everything else these days.

Thankfully, if we learned nothing else in 2020, we’ve all embraced the technologies to make our lives seemingly run a little smoother (zoom, google meets, WebEx or facetime, anyone?). I cleared my schedule and dedicated my time and energy into watching the presentations as if I were attending in person. I even virtually “traveled” to the sponsor booths, typically good for a few free pens, T-shirts, and the highly coveted selfie sticks. The conference ended without a pen in sight.

Lately, I can’t help but feel like we are all struggling a bit with Pandemic Fatigue. Pandemic fatigue isn’t merely emotional, it is physiological. I learned at the conference that our brain is working much harder on Zoom than it is in person. A piece of our brain is always looking for a 3D option and over time, this tires us out. As a result of our distancing guidelines. The levels of oxytocin that are released by making in-person eye contact and hugging are virtually non-existent nowadays. We are not being (appropriately) touched enough. A quick remedy is to give a 20-second hug to the person (or people) you are quarantining with. 20 seconds is the perfect amount of time for a hormone and stressor release.

Pandemic fatigue is real and feels like it is here to stay. No matter who I talk to, everyone is experiencing such a heightened range of emotions, as we try to navigate to some sort of “normal.” Some people are bored out of their minds. Others are trying to balance the demands of work and family and feel like they are barely keeping their heads above water. We all want to do something, ANYTHING, that resembles what life used to be like a year ago. 

The theme of this year’s Schwab conference was “All In.” As I listened to each presenter somehow incorporate the phrase “all in” into their sessions, I initially laughed at the awkwardness of it all. The CEOs of major investment firms highlighting their take on investment trends for the future, Katie Couric interviewing Doctor David Agus regarding the pandemic. Brief, 10 minute, comedic interludes featuring Colin Jost from SNL and a closing performance by Sting—all of these people had to incorporate the phrase “all in.” We sat, listened, and watched from the comfort of our own homes or offices across the country. The delivery of the phrase “all in” became a bit comical, and I found myself wondering how Sugar Ray Leonard was going to show us his in-home training facility and also use the phrase “all-in” in a sentence. But eventually, something about the phrase started to sink in. There was a certain motivating factor in hearing each one of the speakers work it into their presentation. “All in” was the mantra, and it became an interesting and positive spin on an otherwise ordinary virtual conference. Over the following few days, I realized it became a positive way to approach the rest of the year.

We are already “all in” in 2020. We have embraced this new pandemic normal and we’ve changed our habits. It feels tiring, I know, but we’ve adapted, and we are getting by. “All in” of 2020 is the new Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg. How about some of the pandemic fads that have occurred over the last few months? Many of us were fascinated with the tales of Joe Exotic, the Tiger King. We might have participated in the bread baking craze (if you have not heard, there is now a shortage of yeast). No one ever thought they might run out of toilet paper and not be able to buy some at the store, yet here we are. We now have more jokes about video chats in pajama pants. Locally, a few friends recently got into tie-dying, and I am happy to announce that Rockville Centre now has some new brightly colored “mom-uniforms.”

This pandemic has brought all of us closer in that we are finding shared values and shared somethings to talk about. We are all into sharing new hobbies, new fun ideas to do with the kids, new ways of working, new ways of parenting, new ways of communicating with one another. We happen to be “all in” ourselves, whether we realize it or not. We are embracing this new way of being, and although there might be some days that we don’t feel like it, we are getting pretty good at it. For some, the last few months have tested relationships. For others, the pandemic has given new life to a relationship. We are all in on each other and are there for each other.  We realize that no matter when this pandemic might be over, life continues to chug along regardless of the mask-wearing, social distancing guidelines. It continues to move along even though we haven’t seen our co-workers or friends in person, in months.  We laugh talking about how 2020 needs to end; it will be the “forgotten year.” But don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Embrace the challenges, embrace the change of pace. Embrace the graciousness and patience of others as you adopt a new way of living, working, and being. Because everyone is going through this. And everyone is also tired of this. Let’s be all in this together, and as I sit here typing with my blue-stained tie-dye fingertips, let’s all keep checking in on one another.

We hope our friends and clients have a wonderful Thanksgiving. May lightness and humor get you through the holidays, where hopefully a real feeling of togetherness can make these days seem somewhat normal.

Tags: lifestyle, self reflection, COVID, pandemic

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