Lockdown: Why are we tired without doing anything?
Before it was the journey to work and overtime, the gym and social life; now telework and cocktails on Zoom, Skype & c. are enough to make us collapse exhausted on the sofa in prime time, without even being able to read two pages of a book. We've been locked up for months and in few cases have we had a more sedentary life than this. We don't walk, we don't play sports, we don't stay up late at night, we dedicate ourselves at most to house cleaning and some raids on the supermarket. Still, we've never felt so tired. How come? The exhaustion that is so common in these weeks is nothing but the response of our body to a mental and emotional overload linked to the continuation of a situation of isolation and anxiety, among a thousand problems and few certainties.
Anxiety, stress and monotony from social distancing can create a mental workload that is very heavy to bear. At the beginning of the quarantine, the discomfort was more due to the need to adapt: we stopped the old habits, we found ourselves struggling with a new routine of life and work, and with new ways of interacting within and outside the family.
According to experts, complete adaptation to a new situation - until recently it was quarantine, but in "normal" life can be a move to another city, or the start of a new job - takes at least three months. But a first psychological breakthrough comes after the first three weeks: in our case we may have experienced a moment of discouragement and melancholy, linked to the fact that the isolation was longer than initially expected. Fortunately, this is also a passing phase.
I'm lucky to have an uncle who works as a doctor and at the beginning of the quarantine I asked him how he could counteract this drop in energy. His answer left me speechless: following the example of the astronauts! By this he meant that one of the first rules is to establish a daily routine with regular wake-up and mealtimes and moments dedicated to socializing by phone and online: small rituals that help break the monotony.
The isolation imposed by the pandemic has forced us to put "in brackets" all our habits and our security. From the revolution in the way we work, to the fear of falling ill or losing a loved one, from worrying about those who risk not being able to resume their activities to the need to manage our children without the help of school: these are all realities that have a hard impact on our psyche and our emotional sphere. All this costs more effort than an intense workout in the gym. In the beginning we reacted with spirit and boldness, as flash mobs, balcony applause and other such initiatives have shown. Now resignation is taking over: this is where the sense of deep and generalized exhaustion that we experience widely comes from.
There are various ways to counteract this tiredness. I'll present you some of them:
Don't stop. We live in a very special situation and the tiredness that afflicts us is largely normal. Our daily activities, even if usual, such as working, keeping in touch with relatives and friends, keeping at least some physical activity, are definitely more tiring than the way we practice them when we are "free". Keeping our commitments is of fundamental importance, because paradoxically the less active we are the more tired we feel.
Accept your moods. The boredom, the sadness, the discouragement were not moods we should be ashamed of. Let's accept them for what they are: the signal that we are holding out in an extreme condition, never experienced before. And let us not forget that, like everything else, this situation will end. We don't know when or how, but it will certainly end.
Structure your day. As you read earlier, having a well-planned day, with a series of activities that follow one another in an orderly fashion, is a winning weapon against the negative feelings of isolation, including fatigue. Not for nothing do explorers at the turn of the century and, in our time, astronauts and scientists living in extreme conditions, fight the sense of isolation and negative feelings by keeping busy with a structured agenda. When in 1915 the British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton got stuck in the Antarctic ice with the ship Endurance, while attempting the first crossing of that continent, he remembered the mistakes of past expeditions and forced the crew to follow fixed times for meals and find themselves for a moment of "obligatory" socialization after dinner. It was also because of his ability to keep up the morale of his men that he managed to get everyone home safely. With all due differences, we must also be inspired by this scheme, creating a routine of activities to stick to as closely as possible: let's wake up at the usual time, devote a precise and defined time to meals, set a timetable for work, domestic tasks, physical activity and leisure. We can make a daily or weekly planning, to stick to and involve children or siblings, for example, with boxes to colour and to "tick" on an ad hoc board (creating one will keep the children busy for a while, giving parents a quiet hour, while for adults just a calendar or agenda).
Stay in touch with family and friends. In the last few days, the data from the telephone companies have been recording it: we are less inclined to call friends and relatives, and our conversations are shorter. Perhaps we have fewer things to tell and share than discomfort and melancholy, and we already struggle to manage our own so that we can listen to the others. Yet these long-distance relationships, however tiring, are as necessary to us as they are to our loved ones. Let's give ourselves a brief outburst and then try to show ourselves calm and positive, asking others to do the same.
Get moving. The idea won't appeal to everyone, but physical activity, with a lot of fatigue and sweat, is the best way to counter anxiety and therefore to recover some energy. If you prefer not to leave the house, you can follow a training program using apps and online streaming: a healthy physical tiredness will release endorphins, allies of good mood, and help you sleep better at night, restoring your strength.
Make plans. Not being able to plan our future is one of the most tiring and frustrating aspects of the whole situation. Let us remember, however, that if big long-term plans are hard to imagine, it is not so for the smallest things close up. So let's make do with a few small projects that can also be implemented in the lockdown phase.
How did you and your language exchange friends feel during the months you were forced to stay at home? Did you manage to stay in a good mood? If you want, share your experience in the comments.
- 22 Jun, 2020
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