We all know what it’s like to feel tired. Sometimes we know why we feel that way – we stayed up too late, work has been exhausting, we’re still recovering from that cold last week – but sometimes we feel tired and we we’re not sure why. All we know is that things seem harder than they should. We don’t seem to have energy for things we usually love. We notice that our desire to veg out or drop out or peace out has dramatically increased.
Going into this fall, I’ve been surprised by how tired I’ve felt, especially considering all the reasons I think I shouldn’t feel tired. Didn’t I just have a vacation? Haven’t I been doing less than normal with so many things cancelled or not yet started again? Haven’t I been sleeping and eating and resting well? Why should I be tried?
Why? Because covid.
I hate to blame yet another thing on this frustrating pandemic, but it’s true. Covid has worn me out, not just because covid sucks, yo, but because a lot of other tiring things come along with it. It turns out that a worldwide pandemic creates the perfect storm for all kinds of fatigue to hit us hard. Any of these feel familiar?
Decision Fatigue comes when you have grown tired of having to make decisions. This season has come with a lot of decision making. Send the kids to school in person or remotely. Get the vaccine as soon as we can or wait a couple of months until we know more about it. Cancel our outdoor gathering or see if the rain lets up.
If you work in a leadership role, decision making may have felt especially burdensome. Business owners have had to decide what staff to lay off. Non-profit leaders have had to cut services and still manage to care for people. Healthcare workers have had to make life and death decisions every day. Can I tell you something? I cannot even THINK about making decisions for our church for a potential fall lockdown without my stomach tying in knots. I’ve hit the wall with planning, re-planning, and back up planning, and that’s normal. It’s Decision Fatigue. You may be feeling it, too.
It means that now even little decisions can feel exhausting. Deciding what to make for dinner, what movie to watch or even what shoes to wear may suddenly overwhelm you. Decision Fatigue is catching up to all of us.
Caregiving roles have been especially draining during the time of covid. Social workers, nurses, doctors, counsellors, personal support workers, therapists, and pastors already have jobs that come with the risk of caregiver fatigue. People in these roles can grow weary with the responsibility they carry for the wellbeing of others.
During covid, this has grown more difficult. First of all, caregivers had to do more care. People were struggling in greater ways and there was simply more work to be done. At the same time, we had to do this in ways that were new to us. We were suddenly counselling people via computer screens or treating people through layers of protective equipment. As a pastor, I can tell you one small thing that was completely awful for me during covid: not being able to hug people during a funeral. When you’re standing next to someone at a grave and they collapse into tears, every instinct tells you to put your arms around that person to support them. Hugging is one of the “tools” of my trade that was taken from me, and it made caring for people a lot harder.
A lot of professions had it a lot worse. I can’t fathom the heaviness a nurse felt when he watched people die without their loved ones or the exhaustion of PSWs who are worked to the bone. There has been more need for care during covid, and it has been harder to give. It makes Caregiver Fatigue even more pronounced for anyone who cares for others.
It may seem obvious, but we should name this: we are tired of covid. We’re tired of case counts and gathering restrictions and lockdowns. We’re tired of worrying and wondering and not being able to plan more than a week at a time. We’re tired of tension and debates and conflicts over everything from vaccines to mask wearing. We’re tired of little things being complicated. Let me give a simple example from my life of covid fatigue catching up to me.
A couple of weeks ago I wanted to go for a swim, so I did the new routine I have to use to sign up. I set an alarm for 25 hours and two minutes ahead of my chosen swim time because 25 hours ahead of time is when sign up starts, and you have to sign up RIGHT away or you miss getting a spot. When my alarm went off, I logged on to my computer and was ready to go when the registration opened. But then something glitched on my computer, and in the minute it took to reboot the webpage, the swim was full. And I was MAD. I could have thrown my computer across the room. I just wanted to go for a swim! I wanted to show up and have it be simple! But it wasn’t. And I was tired of all of the things.
I had to shut down my computer, take some deep breaths and eat some chocolate while I calmed down. It was definitely an overreaction, but it was all triggered by my very real covid fatigue. We’ve all been there.
Let me list just a few other things that happened in the last year and a bit: The public killing of George Floyd. The American election. The finding of mass graves at Residential Schools. The last year and a half has been an emotionally draining season beyond anything to do with covid. We have had to face the depths of our societal sins in a very real way every time we log on to our computers. We have felt grief, rage, and heartbreak. That is tiring, and our very souls are weary.
Of course we’re tired…
So of course we’re all tired! And for many of us, the tiredness is beyond what can be cured by a week at the cottage. My friends, there is no quick fix to this level of weariness. Instead, we need to give ourselves time to rebuild the emotional reserves that may be totally depleted. I think one step towards that is to recognize what’s going on, and name what we’re feeling. And then we all need to give ourselves some recovery time. We don’t have to jump back to everything right away. Maybe we can’t manage as much as we wish we could. Maybe we don’t have as much to give. And that’s okay. We’re not lazy. We’re not defeated. We’re tired. And there’s lots of good reasons for that.