I’m tired. Evidently, I’m not alone because, in the last week, I’ve read several excellent essays about being tired. Our world is collectively at a point of fatigue. We’re tired of the circus in the political arena. We’re tired of the pandemic. Many of us are tired of our economic plight in this whole mess, and because our circles have gotten smaller, we’re tired of each other. The self-care required to correct this state may seem both selfish and complicated. Still, the steps are simple and in the long run, caring for ourselves allows us to care for our community.
When I realized we had experienced some form of lockdown for over a year, the fact hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m an introvert by nature, though I sit right at the line of being an extrovert. This handy little fact means that I can flex myself easily to be in front of people, carry on conversations at a party, or introduce myself to strangers. But it also means that I need quiet, uninterrupted downtime to recharge. My career in human resources had me in front of people all day. Still, in the evenings, when my husband was alive, I could disconnect, have quiet, and recharge. Life had a routine, and I had windows I could count on to refill my cup, so to speak.
All of that changed last year. I had decided that it was time for me to pursue my career in coaching. That required me to start a business and engage in marketing that took so much of my energy. As I readied my launch, COVID-19 was discovered to be in the US. It was downhill from that point. The critical thing I need to get in front of buyers of my services is networking. The pandemic wiped away most opportunities to do that. I’ve been thrust into using email and social media for my marketing, and that has become exhausting. I had hoped that many of the people I had helped in business would be on-board to spread my message over the years. Sadly, my requests for them to promote my social media pages sat unacknowledged. Commentary or discussion on my posts was absent. While my first reaction is to be somewhat annoyed, I’ve come to realize that they’re tired, too. And many of them are facing challenges of reinventing their organizations, finding new ways for staff to work, and even having to fight to keep their jobs. No one has really been spared in all of this.
Having to engage social media so heavily has blurred the lines between business, posting about my children, and getting caught up in the day’s issues. The fatigue of others is apparent. Kindness is missing from my news feeds. While it has been missing for a while, it is more obviously gone now than ever. People are tired, and they want to put an end to debate and arguments by digging in and refusing to admit that they’re wrong. Somehow, science has become the enemy, and working for the greater good is seen as a violation of freedom. The toxic ignorance is exhausting and so deeply ingrained that even civil debate won’t change their perspective. From the election cycle to the pandemic to the rollout of vaccination, this behavior has become tiresome. It has added to the general fatigue of us all.
We could look beyond those we were in conflict with and seek solace in other friends with other ideas and different stories in happier times. But, our circles are now smaller. We’re stuck at home, and to keep this virus at bay, we limit our trips outside, and we keep to social distancing. That distance wears on us. Humans are social creatures. We crave connection. We’re in a situation where connection, or rather the ability to make those connections, has been short-circuited. We’re tired of the people in our homes simply because we have had to be around them far more than we usually are. We don’t have time apart to process our relationships or gain new perspectives. We are around those we love 24/7. I’m around my children constantly. I love them, but they are part of all of my moments. I’m not sure that’s how parenting should be, but we’re making the best of it.
The world is a mess. We’re tired of the world being a mess. We’re tired of our lives being on hold. We’re tired. What can we do to take care of ourselves and bring back some of that energy we once had? What can we do to get back some semblance of joy? We have to engage in self-care. Some would say it has to be radical self-care — but radical feels frenetic. Some would balk at saying that there is no time for massages and spa days — besides, they aren’t safe yet. Self-care doesn’t really have to be any of those things. Self-care starts with quiet mindfulness. It begins with a question; what do I need? For many of us, we have to clear away the other questions floating in our minds. What do my children need? What does my spouse need? You can’t care for their needs if you haven’t met your own. You have to be sure you’re mind is healthy and your body is healthy. Otherwise, you’re in no position to care for anyone else.
Keeping our minds healthy means that we have to control what goes in. Actively plan how you’ll receive your news about what’s going on in the world. With around the clock news cycle, decide when you’ll update yourself. We have to take a personal stand not to get sucked in the ever-developing stories of the day that feed and heighten our anxiety. End your news consumption time with good news about something. Read the information that makes you smile. For those of us who have to engage in social media for our work and those who want to use it to stay connected, curate your news feed on the platforms you engage in. There is nothing wrong with hiding a post that gives you negative feelings. If someone you’re connected to is constantly posting negativity, hate, or ignorance, just unfollow, snooze, or mute them. Those actions aren’t permanent and can certainly be undone at a later time, and you get to stay connected. It’s no different than taking some time apart in an offline relationship. We’re humans, and conflict is going to arise. Taking time away and regrouping or avoiding negative messages can be very healthy. We need to be prepared for relationships that have become so toxic that we need to walk away from them. Just as in offline relationships, we have to terminate friendships that aren’t mutually beneficial; on social media, we may also have to have the bravery to permanently disconnect.
Self-care also involves examining our self-talk. Spending so much time cut off from those with whom we are connected, the little voice in our head gains prominence. Some refer to it as a gremlin, and some simply refer to it as a thought loop, but no matter what you call it, it can get out of control. Find some time to listen to what’s going on in your head. Our brains tend to believe what we tell them. What are you telling yours? Good self-care requires that we make some changes to what we’re hearing if it’s not healthy for us. Again, mindfulness plays a role here. Simply listen to what is being said, don’t react, and assess what the message is. You may need to change it.
Finally, self-care is about shoring up your resilient mindset. So much of our resiliency comes from our experience. We know that we have been through difficult times before and that there are better times on the other side. That mindset is currently being put to the test. We have never had to endure a world like this. The difficulty has gone on so long that we may be wondering if there is something on the other side of it — or is this just it. Is this our new “normal?” I know for many, this is compounded by the fact that they are going through other difficulties. Difficulties that in other times we’d deem typical life events. But they take on new meaning and new weight today. That can add to the fear that things may never change. It may make our current journey feel long, slow, and plodding. We may have lost sight of our destination. Again, we have to lean on our friend, mindfulness. We have to remember when we have made it through difficult times and know that we’ll make it through these. We have to acknowledge our fear, our loneliness, and our heaviness as being what they are. How we feel doesn’t change the fact that we will get to the other side.
I’m tired. You’re tired. We have to take care of ourselves. We have to embrace kindness, not only to our fellow humans but kindness to ourselves. It all starts with acknowledging how you feel and letting yourself feel it. Remember, we’re all going through a similar strain. When you’re ready, when you’ve taken good care of yourself, look up and look around. There are still ways to be kind and to help people realize their own self-care. We’re suffering together, and by taking care of ourselves and reaching out, we’ll get through this together.