I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel like I am crawling towards Christmas (I have even suggested using #CrawlingTowardsChristmas on Twitter @EmmaYhnell)! We have all been through so much, professionally and personally during this pandemic and sadly, it doesn’t seem like the end is in sight any time soon. As I politely ask others how they are feeling in the run up to Christmas, this seems to be an all too familiar feeling. So I wanted to dig down into the science of why we are all feeling so exhausted and to see if there is anything that we might be able to do about it.
Why are we all feeling so exhausted?
Although we might not like to admit it, as humans, we are really creates of habit. We create habits in our lives and we are social creatures. Your habits might have previously included, going to school, college or work, going out with your friends or even playing sports. As a result of the pandemic to keep us all safe, our habits were broken by lockdown restrictions and we missed many of them (oh I still really miss the habits and rituals that I didn’t even appreciate pre-pandemic). Recreating our habits online was just not the same and although some of our habits carefully and steadily returned, they just weren’t the same as before. Just as we were adjusting and longing for a return to normality, the rules and regulations would change again, and then again and even as I write this, they are continuing to change.
The rules and regulations associated with the pandemic are constantly changing and in a state of flux. Not only is it confusing and annoying (often for very good reason) it goes against many of the key attributes we are hard wired to need as humans. Constantly changing the goal posts is not good for our wellbeing and mental health, people hate it! The dark nights and cold miserable weather doesn’t do much to help either, but there isn’t very much that we can do about that. Particularly when we feel out of control on top of our existing and understandable anxieties for our own health as well as the health and wellbeing of our loved ones, it is relatively easy to see why we are all so exhausted. The past year has been mentally exhausting and although it is difficult to do, it can be really empowering to accept how you are feeling. In accepting how you are feeling, there is an opportunity to change it too!
What can we do to feel better?
I know that I get grouchy with anything less than eight solid hours of sleep per night, but how much sleep you need and are used to is different for us all. The COVID-19 pandemic has almost certainly impacted upon our sleep patterns. Many of us have felt the horrible feeling of anxiety for the first time, we may well have been unable to sleep, laying awake at night worrying about others or how much work we have building up. We haven’t had to tackle our regular commutes and there is less motivation to get up in the morning when you’re not even able to leave your house.
The lack of routine and regularity has changed our sleep patterns. Rolling out of bed into a Zoom meeting while carefully concealing that you are still wearing your pyjama bottoms might feel good in the short term, but we know that it isn’t great for how we feel in the longer term. Considering our sleeping patterns and re-assessing them might help with our exhaustion. It’s definitely worth spending a few minutes during the Christmas holidays removing devices from your bedroom and putting some books on your bedside table to set the mood for some good quality sleep.
Will we be crawling out of Christmas?
I am in need of Christmas, I am longing for a break and some rest. I know that I need to use the holiday to recuperate but I fear that if we aren’t too careful, we may well be crawling out of Christmas as well as. I’m the first to admit that my list of “to dos” over the Christmas holidays is pretty lengthy!
The reality is that the pandemic continues to highlight that there is so much in the world which we do not have control over and cannot change which greatly affects our lives. But, it also provides a useful opportunity to reflect on many of the things that we do have control over. So, this Christmas I challenge you to accept the things which you cannot control and embrace the things that you can.
Although many of us may well be crawling towards Christmas, I wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy holidays and I sincerely wish that the break provides an opportunity for you to replenish you energy levels that you can proudly walk into the New Year (let’s be realistic, you need to save some of that energy for 2022).