Fighting the Fatigue of Social Distancing

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Are you tired of fighting the fatigue of social distancing? The endless monotony and repetition of doing the same things every day bring back memories of the movie Groundhog Day. If I remember right, didn’t Bill Murry hit a point where he just felt tired, worn down and weary?

It’s as though we’ve been stretched to the limits of our elasticity — leaving us exhausted in an entirely different way.

Feeling Tired and Disappointed

I remember feeling tired when our kids were little. I’d chase them all day only to collapse into bed each night. But this kind of fatigue feels different. It’s not the “sleepy tired” because I stayed up too late working or reading or watching tv after the kids went to bed. Or the exhausted tired from running between work, appointments, and errands.

I feel tired of not knowing what day of the week it is. Of days that seem to revolve around our next meal and dishes in the sink every time I turn around. I dread grocery shopping because of the extra time it takes to wait in lines, sanitize, and put things away.

It’s exhausting trying to decide between which color of sweatpants and t-shirt I should wear each day.

I’m weary of wondering when I’ll hug my grandkids again or go out with my husband or friends.

Disappointments keep hitting me in waves. I’ve felt sadness, anxiety, depression, frustration, and have worried about my family. I’ve missed hugs from my grandkids, vacations, and all the canceled plans. Some days it just feels like a lot, and I complain and feel sad.

I Can Do This

But then I remembered that I have so many blessings and those things I’m tired and disappointed and sad about will be ok. My family is healthy, I can FaceTime my grandkids, and we will go on other vacations. I’m not perfect, but I can try to be more positive despite it all. I can do this.

I know because I’ve been here before. Obviously, I’ve never lived through a pandemic or quarantine, or life where phrases like social distancing and flattening the curve are just part of our daily language. But I have lived through challenging times more than once — serious, life-altering, world-shattering challenges. There have been times when I’ve felt the fatigue of fighting to stay above water before.

The reality is finally settling in. Life is different. And there’s no timeline or schedule for when everything will start to resemble normal again.

No doubt, dealing with the psychological strain associated with Coronavirus is wearing us out. Research shows that increased levels of fatigue can be related to mental states such as stress and anxiety. So how do we stop fighting the fatigue and get our energy back?

I’ve discovered three questions to make a difference.

Three Questions to Help Fight the Fatigue

  1. How did I see the hand of God today?
  2. What can I be grateful for right now, at this moment?
  3. What can I learn from this?

Thanks to the wisdom and faith I’ve gained as I’ve gotten older, I turn to these questions a little more quickly than I used to.

These questions help me refocus my energy and realize my blessings. Living life with a focus on growth and gratitude doesn’t mean I never get discouraged or deny my feelings. Do you remember my rant at the beginning of this post?

I love the reminder from 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18: “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks.”

The English major in me can’t help but notice why the preposition in those verses is so important. It says to give thanks IN everything, not give thanks FOR everything.

It is not suggesting we overlook the difficulties of our current situation. No, it is reminding us — maybe even commanding us — to be intentional about giving thanks. We can always find something to feel thankful for if we’re looking.

Practicing gratitude is an intentional answer based on scientific evidence and echoed throughout the scriptures. It is that powerful.

“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say, thank you?” — William Arthur Ward

Why We Need Gratitude During a Pandemic

Are you barely functioning because this destructive disease has taken a friend or loved? Are you finding it hard to imagine how you can get through the next day, hour, or even a minute? Maybe you weren’t able to be with them during their last moments because of restrictions on visitors. Or perhaps the funeral has to be different, and gathering to honor or celebrate life isn’t a current option.

Do you spending your days and nights in the hospital, putting on a brave face for your patients, and then let the waterworks flow once you are at home and in the dark? Are you staying away from your family because you want to keep them safe?

Maybe you feeling anxious about a job loss or furlough as you watch your savings dwindle and face one hurdle after another? Perhaps you’re fixated on insurance costs and the worry of paying for medical needs you may need if anyone gets sick.

Are you struggling to find balance with the demands of parenting, homeschooling, and working from home? Maybe you feel drained by everyone’s expectations and the struggles associated with doing everything remotely.

Do you worried about loved ones who are essential workers, imagining the worst when you hear a little cough or sniffle? Or are you watching them suffer from the Coronavirus, and you feel helpless because there’s nothing you can do?

Maybe you’re struggling to manage all of the expectations because family or friends want to get together and are angry when you refuse. Do your kids complain about being the only one who doesn’t get to see their friends?

Are you facing self-isolation as a newly single parent, wondering how the broken pieces of your marriage used to fit together? Or maybe arguments with your spouse have become elevated because of all the hours you’re together when you’re both stressed and worried.

Do you live in a new home or city and wish for the comfort of familiar surroundings and friends? Does the isolation feel overwhelming because you’re spending all your days alone?

Maybe you’re fighting depression and a haze is settling over you for reasons you can’t explain? Or do you struggle to manage the anxiety and fear that our uncertain future seems to hold?

Are you missing significant events in the lives of your kids or your family because everything has been canceled or postponed? Maybe you feel like lashing out at the ones making these decisions because you don’t know where else channel your anger.

Do you see yourself in any of these situations? Or maybe someone you care for immediately comes to mind. Gratitude is a healing balm. Not only have I seen it work wonders in my own life, but science and the testimonials of people who have witnessed the way gratitude pulled them through some of the hardest times of their life only shows why we need it now more than ever.

3 Benefits of Gratitude

Even though life might feel like it’s all coming undone right now, we need to keep pushing ahead and recognize we’re all in this together. Focusing on gratitude and growth — by asking yourself those three questions — can help you shift your perspective.

We can teach our kids a valuable lesson right now. By letting them see our weary, tired selves, and then see our grateful side — even if it’s a small unattractive effort; we teach them how gratitude can literally be a lifeline.

1. Gratitude Changes Our Perspective “Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery. It merely washes clean the glass you look through so you can clearly see the colors.” — Richelle Goodrich

We can’t change our circumstances, but we can change the way we decide to respond to them. It’s never easy, but gratitude can help shift our perspective. The research consistently shows increased optimism and improved levels of psychological well-being. Expressing our thanks regularly decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety and develops resilience, so we’re better equipped to cope with difficulties in life. It may also help counteract suicidal thoughts. The practice of gratitude actually changes the molecular structure of the brain, which makes it easier to be more grateful and reap all the benefits of gratitude.

2. Gratitude Leads to Happiness “It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” — David Steindl-Rast

I continue to be amazed at the amount of research about gratitude and happiness. I’ve realized happy people first become grateful people. When happiness feels just beyond our reach, gratitude helps turn our focus outward.

“If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.” — John Wooden

When we’re thankful, we feel more positive emotions and build stronger relationships. We’re less likely to be envious and more likely to handle stress in a healthy way.

3. Gratitude Gives Back “Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it all into words is all that is necessary.” — Margaret Cousins

When we’re grateful, the good we can do is endless. And sharing goodness is something we all need during this pandemic. Gratitude helps us become aware of how precious life is and makes us less likely to take it for granted. It helps us create connections and a sense of community, which expands our social network and circle of friends.

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” — JFK

When we’re grateful, we’re also more agreeable and able to forgive and trust others. Grateful people also have more empathy for others, which is a crucial ingredient for a thriving community. Taking the time to thank others increases the likelihood of them helping and serving someone else.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” — William Arthur Ward

Ideas for Practicing Gratitude

Being more grateful is one of the last things we feel like doing when we’re caught fighting the fatigue of social distancing. It’s so much easier to stay in the “I’m tired” stage. But the benefits of gratitude are like a little bonus to pull you through.

Here are a few ideas to get your gratitude muscles moving, and to start reaping those powerful benefits.

  • Keep a daily gratitude journal.
  • Take a gratitude walk.
  • Prayer and meditation allow you to focus on the ways you’ve been blessed.
  • Send a text or mail a note of encouragement or thanks.
  • Intentionally notice the little, ordinary things you might sometimes overlook.
  • Keep checking in with people you love. We are blessed to have technology at our fingertips to call, text, email, FaceTime, and Zoom to stay connected.
  • Reach out and serve others who might be having a more difficult time than you are right now.
  • Read, study, and learn about gratitude.
  • Find a podcast to listen to about gratitude.
  • Create a new family tradition or start a new hobby. Bread making is on the rise along with family front porch pictures, game night, meaningful dinner conversation, and gardening. You could also create a nightly ritual where each family member gets to share your daily gratitude.
  • Donate to a charity or support a small business — include a note or message of thanks. We’ve been intentional about getting takeout from our favorite restaurants to show our support and gratitude for what they provide to the community.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
— Melody Beattie

Resources:

Allen, Summer Ph.D. “The Science of Gratitude.” Greater Good Science Center. May 2018.

Bono, Giacomo Ph.D. “Gratitude and Community Go Hand in Hand.” Psychology Today. December 21, 2012.

Grant, Adam M., and Francesca Gino. “A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way: Explaining Why Gratitude Expressions Motivate Prosocial Behavior.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2010, Vol. 98, №6, 946–955

Greene, Nathan. “Can Losing a Loved One Make You More grateful?” Greater Good Magazine. March 22, 2018.

Healthbeat. “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier.” Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School.

Kocalevent, R.D., Hinz, A., Brähler, E. et al. “Determinants of fatigue and stress.” BMC Res Notes. (2011) 4, 238.

Watson, Rita MPH. “Forgiveness Research and the Gratitude Factor.” Psychology Today. April 27, 2017.

Written by

Author of Creating Positive Habits and Practicing Progress, Lori writes about choices inspiring greater joy and happiness. https://www.choosingwisdom.org/

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