The Overwhelm

The Overwhelm

Today is Day 31 of self-isolation in my home, due to Covid-19. How are we coping? My answer to my therapist was, “As best we can,” and I think you’re all doing your best, too.

We’re resilient, aren’t we? We went from complete freedom to… whatever fresh hell this is. But here we are, waking up from that limbo we accept as “rest” to face another day. After day, after day, after day.

We stare at graphs showing curves that are threatening not to flatten. We judge our neighbours and former friends for making choices we disagree with.

We’re angry.
Riding high on horses.
Cowering low at home.
Pointing fingers.
Fearing the vast unknown.

Gone are the days when we’d wander around stores looking for whatever trinket-y item we could buy to fill up our homes. Gone are the times leisurely browsing bookstores. No more loitering about the mall. Missing are the library visits, the coffee shop meetings. Easter and Passover were lonely meals, resembling nothing we’ve experienced.

First, we couldn’t buy toilet paper anywhere. Now we can’t find yeast. There are no disinfectants to be found. And weirdly, we’re all making fabric masks now, so materials for those are in short supply, too.

Outdoor exercise is happening only when needed. (How do we even determine “need” right now? It all feels like a need. We are so done being cooped up inside!) No road trips. We’re not allowed at cottages. Kids are missing friends. Many are separated from their own parents to protect everyone.

We suddenly have a new vernacular — social distancing, social bubbles, quarantine, speaking… “moistly”…

The healthcare system that was already so over capacity is bursting at the seams. We’re losing grandparents. And parents. The news is never positive. We’re disinfecting groceries, and we’re not allowed to pet other peoples’ animals. (Animals can carry Covid-19, wtaf!?)

Our roots are growing out, our lash extensions have bid adieu. Our vanity is showing. Our pants no longer fit, because we eat our feelings. Our fad diets are out the door, and yet, we’re still obsessed with remaining thin, when others cannot even get food.

We’re having bad dreams. We’re exhausted. We’re lashing out at benign things that would never be triggers for us before. We’re clinging to conspiracy theories. We’re seeing sides of people we thought we knew that we wish we hadn’t. We’re seeing sides of ourselves we perhaps wish we hadn’t.

Jobs are gone. Mortgages are in arrears. Bills left unpaid. The economy is failing. Suddenly, we’re our kids’ teachers, and I have to tell you, I made the RIGHT move when I chose not to be a teacher, because I am NOT good at this.

Are you tired? I’m tired.

Today, my ten-year-old said, “I am so sad because you always find the silver lining for me, Mommy, and you just can’t seem to find one these days.”

That felt like an actual punch to my gut. He’s not wrong: I find the good in every situation, but lately it feels like there is no hope.

It is The Overwhelm.

In times as abnormal as these, the overwhelm is normal, expected, and, according to my therapist, a much-needed response. This is your body telling you to stop, that you’ve had enough, that you need a break.

But how do you find relief when there seems to be none? I’m no professional (but I do pay a lot to professionals to help me muddle through life, so here’s my benevolent act for today… sharing what I pay money to hear, LOL), but I am coping using a multitude of strategies. Here are some ideas you might want to try, too:

• Step away from the constant news cycle
Here’s what I know: I am doing my very best to protect my family from the virus, and no amount of news is going to help us at this point. We already stay home. We already disinfect everything. We already eat as best we can. We already stay hydrated. The 24-hour-panic-level news cycle serves only to increase anxiety. So I’ve stopped watching.

• Mute People
I love my friends and acquaintances on social media, I really do. I don’t maintain connections with people I don’t like. But lately? I am shocked by the behaviours of some people. While I realize there’s a good chance these are stress-related behaviours, it doesn’t mean I have to read them. So muting/unfollowing (not unfriending… though in other cases, I totally recommend this, too) is helping. I don’t need to read someone mocking my choices for… well, anything. We’re all doing our best. So I don’t feel any guilt for shushing some people, and I feel no sadness over anyone muting me, either.

• Decompress
Although I work from home, and am therefore on the clock from 9-5, last week, the overwhelm was so B I G that I had a panic attack midday. Instead of “powering through it”, I let myself fall apart. I made some tea, and got into a hot bath at like 1pm. None of it made much sense, but it alleviated some anxiety and allowed me to get through the day. Do what you need to do to cope.

• Accept Yourself
My moods and reactions have shocked me lately. I feel like I can’t recognize myself, but you know what? That’s ok, because I’ve never dealt with a global pandemic before. And neither have you. It’s ok to react in totally bizarre ways. It’s ok to not carry on as we did before. It’s ok to find yourself doing nothing. Or doing everything. However you’re getting through each day? THAT. IS. EXACTLY. OK. Go easy on yourself, my friends. There are worse things than being unproductive, or overweight, or messy, or whatever it is you’re beating yourself up over.

• Understand Stress Is Exhausting
Regardless of your past experience with trauma response, anxiety, or high levels of stress, this shit is b-a-n-a-n-a-s. Your complete lack of motivation or energy is not just normal, it’s protective. Ongoing stress is so tiring, the body just kinda nopes out of everything for awhile. Refer to the point above. You’ll need to accept this is the normal thing for awhile.

I would love to be able to tell you that we’ll all be ok. Or that this precious, highly distilled time in close quarters with our families will be positive. Or some other bright and sunshiney thing. But the truth is, I really don’t know what the future holds. Nobody does.

What I DO know is that we’re able to control how we manage our own behaviours right now, how we respond to the requests to #staythefuckhome, how we extend ourselves to help those in need, and how we process each day, one step at a time.

And for now, that is gonna have to be ok.

Stay kind, stay safe, stay home.

(“Speaking Moistly” buttons are courtesy Oh So Kawaii)

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