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Surge Capacity. Why we are running on empty.

covid-19 exhausted mental health mental health pandemic mum life surge capacity well-being well-being coach women supporting women Dec 16, 2021

 Our new family routine for a Monday night is a good old round of family covid testing. I know, I know, I really know how to spend quality time with my family! It all fun, giggles and LFT’s in this house!

 (LFT’s = lateral flow tests. Just incase there is something else LFT’s stands for that I miss the joke on. Like that time I had no idea what ‘Netflix and Chill’ meant, before I asked a group of trainees if they were away home to do just that… awkward... anyway I digress)

In that moment, when the four tests were lying out on the table, and my 2 year old decided to shuffle the carefully laid out tests – causing panic and exclaims of “I’m not doing it again if one is positive to find out who it is!” – it just struck me how weird this whole period of time has been.

Initially I struggled ‘locking down’ my life and retreating indoors. Not seeing people. Socialising through a screen. Home schooling. Building a routine around the ‘daily walk’. Waiting for the daily briefings and news from ‘the outside’.  

However, over time it became comfortable…safe…preferred.

Later, we were all encouraged to emerge. Adjust to being back in crowds, in workplaces, conversing with people in the flesh. Social events crept back in. The kids activities crept back in. Life was speeding up again.

But different. All still felt different. The ‘Freedom Day’ I was waiting for, and then I wasn’t sure if I wanted it.

These unprecedented times – caused unprecedented feelings.

I had never experienced such conflict in my emotions before.

Desperate to have time away from my children, but knowing how lonely it would feel to not have them

Desperate to hug family, but not wanting to cause them harm

Desperate to see my children with their friends, but reluctant to leave the house

Desperate to have a sense of community, but angered by others actions and choices

Desperate to have my pre-covid life, but not the speed and stress that came with it

It was, and still is, exhausting.

Eventually, you can’t work out how you feel. Or what you want. Or what your opinions are. A toxic confusion of health anxiety, feelings of social injustice, political frustration, isolation, financial strain - to name a few.

We used up all our Surge Capacity.

What is Surge Capacity?

You see, us remarkable humans – we have an emergency setting. We have systems that allow us to respond to periods of acute stress, and function pretty well!  These systems form a collection of mental and physical top trump cards that we can draw on for short-term survival. You see this play out in human responses to natural disasters, missing people hunts, acute illness…those type of things. This collection of adaptive systems makes up our Surge Capacity. To deal with short, sharp bursts of high stress and still be able to function.

This covid-19 pandemic has been anything but short-term and temporary!

 

Surge Capacity is the emergency fund, and we have spent it. Ages ago. Surge Capacity tanks are empty. Nowt. Nada. Zip. Your light is flashing and you are officially running on fumes.

Covid seems to be the unfortunate gift that keeps on giving. New variants keep popping up, quicker than we can adjust to each ‘new normal’.

Jeez this is a depressing post right? Hold on, it will get lighter..

When you read about new restrictions, or new variants, or new stats - and you feel totally numb to it, or you feel the anxiety building, or you feel just downright angry – the key message is that this is normal. There is no right way to feel. There is no right way to navigate this.

You are totally spent. You are fed up talking about it, thinking about it, changing plans, booking PCR tests. You have emptied your surge capacity tank, and had no real time to refill it.

Once you accept that it is not only okay to feel that way, but expected. Then we can focus on refilling that tank. It will take time, but you can move forward, regardless of the continued uncertainty around us.

How? Here are some of my ideas…

-          Acknowledge how you feel. Don’t dismiss it, or compare it to someone’s else’s pain that you perceive as worse. This is difficult. Allow yourself to feel grief, anger, frustration.

 

-          Lower your expectations of yourself. You can’t do it all, seriously. Lower them. Come on… lower than that…the house, the kids, the meals, the zoom calls, the cleaning, the deadlines… take it all down a notch or 10.

 

-          What can you Drop? My favourite question! You need to create head space to let that capacity bucket refill. Mute the group chat. Delegate. Ask for help. Quit ironing. Anything!

 

-          Activity! What is meaningful to you?( My second favourite question!) What activities bring you joy? Purpose? Make intentional steps towards including them in your week. Sing loudly in the shower. Draw. Listen to music. Bake a cake. Go for a run. Learn something new. Paint a room a colour you love rather than what is current. Clear out your clothes. Anything!

 We have all been through the same storm, but in very different boats. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Take steps to refill that bucket.

Are you ready to take action?

I'm ready!