Pandemic Fatigue...is it real?
Is anyone else as emotionally and mentally tired as I am? I never thought the Minister of Magic’s comment in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, “These are dark times, there is no denying. Our world has perhaps faced no greater threat than it does today,” would be so apropos.
It feels like our current status is the permanency of “dark times” and we are all struggling and exhausted and waiting for our life to return to normal. So, when we're all so depleted, needing connection and just surviving, how do we help our children adjust and not just survive but thrive? Where do we even begin, when we ourselves feel so drained? This is the topic I want to discuss today.
Let’s examine one of the most binge-watched shows on Netflix right now, Queens Gambit. You may be scratching your head saying, isn’t that the chess show…and what does this have to do with the pandemic?
Hang with me here. I would argue the entire series is focused on how the main character is searching for a sense of self and understanding of what her role is within society while her life and circumstances are ever-changing. Throughout Beth Harmon’s story, we watch as she believes she understands what her role is through the game of chess. This gives her a sense of worth and value, only to have it change time and time again based on success, outcomes, or reality…sound familiar?
Right now, we are all living between the spaces of what feels like a big ever-changing chessboard and we must navigate through whatever the moves may be. If you’ve watched the show, then you’ve seen how Beth chooses unhealthy coping mechanisms (drugs, alcohol, and sex) to deal with feelings of disappointment, hurt, and anger. My hope is that we, as parents and leaders, begin to model positive ways of processing the good and the bad in a healthy, productive manner. Together, we can mold a generation able to deal with difficulties and unexpected changes.
To carve a new path I would suggest looking at Brene Brown’s rules for walking through a first try. A first try is when you experience or try something for the first time without education or experience to ensures success (such as this pandemic, never experienced before and no one really knows what we are doing) which can at times feel like we are failing. Brown argues there are 5 steps to engaging well with the first try:
Name it for what it is: There is power in naming things and acknowledging the toughness of the situation and naming it for what it is allows us to have grace for ourselves as we walk through it.
Develop perspective: The ability to be self-aware and develop a proper perspective will help ground us when our emotions and feelings override us and make us feel out of control.
Reality check your expectations: Being mindful and able to accept that you may have unrealistic expectations about what you can do, or even how long this may last will encourage you to be real about what’s happening. This allows for logic and reasoning to reorient you.
Build-in rest and recovery: Be intentional about rest. This could be sleep, meditation, prayer, walking, or something else that revives you. Our brains are working overtime during this season as we constantly adjust, so it’s important to let them rest and recoup.
Be prepared for the emotions that accompany a first try: Embrace the vulnerability of a first try and be prepared when you do this for all the feelings and emotions that may come with that vulnerability.
These are great tools and tips, but how do we enact them with our children? Communicate that first tries are not going to go away and the only constancy in life is change. Therefore, we need to integrate these into our reality rather than normalizing the discomfort when change occurs. We must respect the awkwardness and discombobulation we all experience and embrace them with authenticity and vulnerability. Acknowledge sometimes life is frustrating, but that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, let’s model what proactively choosing courage, service, and bravery over comfort really looks like.
A great biblical example of this is the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-30. In verse 21, Jesus tells the rich young ruler what he must do to have eternal life: “Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'”
Jesus asks this young man to let go of comfort and instead embrace hardship in the name of helping others. This man leaves sad as he knows he cannot do it. He sacrifices the true joy of Christ and eternal life so he can live the comfortable life he is accustomed to living. We need to highlight the uncomfortable moments in our lives, the moments that are tough. In those moments when we feel we may break, we need to demonstrate to them, and ourselves, what being brave, courageous, and vulnerable in the face of “unprecedented times” looks like. This means allowing our children to see our struggles and fears when we try something new that may be overwhelming and scary. They will see that while life may not always be how we want it, we can embrace difficulties and learn from them. Eventually, these experiences help us grow into the person God created us to be. Let’s turn our first try moments into learning and modeling opportunities that can alter the future of an entire generation.