Coping with Covid Fatigue

Tell Me More: Episode 4


(Music fades in) If you’re feeling exhausted from year two of the global pandemic yet find yourself wide awake half the night, you’re not alone. Despite having vaccines and treatments available and despite America starting to reopen this past summer there’s a growing realization that we’re not home yet. It’s like starting a football game playing against one team and then at half-time a new opponent takes the field. The delta variant team is faster, stronger and moving all directions all over the field and it’s going to take more time and effort to defeat this new team or the next one. (Music picks up)

I’m Susan Brozek Scott and in this episode of Tell Me More, we’re talking with Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com, who can help us as we try to figure out a strategy to get through this pandemic, get into the end zone and safely get on with our lives. Don good to be with you. (Music fades out)

Don: Great to be with you as well Susan.

Susan: Don, we’re at that phase in this pandemic where so many people say they are simply exhausted. They’ve done what they feel they can do and then there is always something else to deal with and they’re suffering on a lot of levels. Is this what some are calling Covid fatigue?

Don: Yes, the answer is yes Susan. It is Covid fatigue. And I like your analogy of the football game because the goalposts in this case, they keep moving. And with Dr. Facui’s recent comment about how things may not improve with this recent surge in cases until spring of 2022, most of us have been feeling or are beginning to feel the long term psychological effects of Covid fatigue and burnout. I said this almost a year ago, the future impact of Covid will not be treated with vaccines, social distancing and masks. All things we should be doing right now by the way. We have to be able to address the sky-rocketing numbers of people diagnosed with depression, anxiety and trauma because of this pandemic. And the polarization, it – no we have caused – we are not adequately prepared to face the mental health hurricane that is now brewing. Let’s be clear, all of us, myself, you, everyone listening, everyone out there, we’re tired of staying inside, we’re tired of being careful, we’re tired of being scared, we’re tired of turning on the news or social media, and just seeing bad news. We’re tired of the rising statistics, but you know what isn’t tired yet Susan? Covid. But our collective fatigue is making some people careless; one reason Covid-19 is rising sharply throughout the US. Facing this fatigue is important for our personal health and for beating the virus that has shaken us to our very core. Most people understand this and that is what is adding to their exhaustion and stress.

Susan: These variants of Covid -19 they keep changing and mutating to get through our bodies defenses. Do we not only have to adjust our vaccines but also our mental strategies to successfully deal with this?

Don: Absolutely! There is no back-to-normal mode. We can deny it, ignore it, pretend it will just go away on its own. But this is our new reality. Yet, we shouldn’t be cowering in fear. We should be rising to the challenge. Follow the science and work on what we do have control over. Being kind, taking care of each other and ourselves, promoting good mental health starts today and with ourselves.

Susan: What are some of the simple things, Don, that we can do to handle the feeling that too much of this is out of our control?

Don: That’s a great question. Much of our fear is preventable even though it doesn’t seem that way. We have to stop polarizing the issues and come together to fight the real enemy, which is the virus. Having said that, recognizing that I don’t have control over others or their opinions, I can only control my reaction and make the best and most informed choices I can – all the while being mindful to those around me. This is not passivity, let’s be clear. This is not passivity. It is empowering ourselves in the here and now. Not being fearful or paralyzed in the shadow of an uncertain future and not trying to fix the past. Rather, focusing on how the present moment is the only place I can be a real agent of change. And part of that change can happen through some very simple steps, Susan:

  • Exercise. By the way, exercise – people throw it out there like “why don’t you just exercise more,” that is not a cure for mental health but it does help right. Exercise – it’s the number one best thing that we can do for coping in these times. A simple walk, it releases endorphins, it gets some of the adrenaline out when frustration builds up inside of us. Just getting out and moving around can be really helpful for people.
  • Talking, right, this really helps, being able to connect with another person. Finding the right places and times to do it, that’s important. Don’t try to bring up – you know – big global issues when you’re in a bad mental health space, but ignoring feelings doesn’t make them go away either. Constructive thinking, we like to think that the words that come out of our mouths are always productive always constructive, not so. Think about the words that you’re about to say. Think about how you’re thinking about them, right. Be compassionate with yourself and others. Remind yourself, “I’m doing the best I can and so is the person I’m talking with.”
  • And finally, Mindfulness: This is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. But it’s important to understand the more you practice mindfulness, the easier some of this stress, burn out and fatigue gets, being in the moment, you’re right there, you’re listening to my voice, breathing and looking around. Put yourself in the moment, and if you’re not sure how to practice mindfulness – Google it. There are all kinds of instructional videos and podcasts out there. For now, just taking life day-by-day is so important.

Susan: Don, how does a person know whether they, or someone they know, might need more help? Are there things to look for either in ourselves or our friends and family that we should be aware of even on social media if we see something, what should we do?

Don: Reach out to a professional if you’re unsure. Now is the time to do this. Don’t wait for things to just get better on their own. They may not. At eTalkTherapy, we offer free consultations to help match you with the right therapist and if we don’t have that person for you, we’ll give you referrals to other professionals that are either online or in your area. We’ve been providing telemental health services in Pennsylvania since 2017, and we have a wonderful group of experienced and licensed therapists who are ready to start helping you make changes today. Go to eTalkTherapy.com for further details on scheduling a free consultation or your first appointment. It just takes a minute, but it takes a tremendous amount of courage to reach out and admit that you need help with an issue. So why not get started today?

Susan: Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com. Thanks for helping guide us through these very challenging times. (Music fades in)

Don: As always Susan, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you!

Music continues…

This podcast does not provide medical advice. The content is for informational purposes only. Consult with your doctor on all medical issues regarding your condition and treatments. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional psychiatric or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment nor does it replace the need for services provided by a medical or psychiatric professional. Always seek the advice of a medical professional, psychiatrist or therapist before making any changes to your treatment.

Music fades out.

How Therapy Can Change Your Life

Not What I Expected

I don’t know what I expected, but here they are: the house painters we’d booked weeks ago, large men with friendly faces and a radio that plays the Classic Rock station while they work. What did I expect? What you see on TV or in old cartoons, I guess: a man in overalls and a painting cap, cheerfully swiping a paintbrush and whistling while he works.

What the painters at my home today are doing is not that. There’s a lot of banging and stripping, blasting and wrapping. They’re cheerful enough and still friendly, but bear an uncanny resemblance to what my journey though therapy has been like.

My first impressions of therapy were, again, not unlike something I’d see on TV: sitting on a couch talking about my feelings, cheerfully swiping the paintbrush of the events of my day over the siding of my mind, maybe even while whistling! But what therapy became was the same hard work as my real painters. There was a lot of work involved. A lot of noise, a lot of banging around as old memories came to the surface and hard-weathered problems needed to be stripped away. I confronted (and still do) friendships in my life as broken as the shutters that have fallen off of the front of my house during thunderstorms; and I am still grappling with how ugly the thoughts in my mind are and how much they resemble the peeling flaking ugliness of the old paint that flitters to the base of my driveway like so many chipped snowflakes.

It is a well-known fact to those who go to therapy that it is hard work, indeed.

A song plays on the painters’ radio: Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.”

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?

Can I handle the seasons of my life?

I don’t know.

I don’t know if I can either. Actually, that’s not true. I know I can, although the difference between handling them by myself and handling them with a therapist is immense. And so I value the work, as hard as it is. I value therapy the way I am valuing the current havoc that is being wrought on my house for the same reasons: because after all that hard work, there will be something beautiful left behind. My home will look refreshed and bright and welcoming after the painters have done their good work; and I will be able to sail through the changes of my life after mine.

If you’re deciding whether or not therapy is right for you, I highly encourage you to consider the difference it can make. It may be painful at times and it may take a lot of effort in some places, but the reward is something you can look on with pride and love.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Effects of a Prolonged Pandemic on Mental Health

We’ve Never Not Known Together

“It’s like… I think everything’s going to be okay, but I have no idea what’s going to happen next. And like, none of you know either. Like… we’ve all never not known together.” – John Mulaney

The second Summer of Covid-19 and things look…off. On paper, everything is pretty similar to every other summer: pools are open, kids go to camps, traffic is resuming, there are BBQs galore and big fireworks shows for Independence Day. But off-paper, things are different. Take sports for example: the Olympics are happening in this sort of truncated way, with sound effects piped in to make it sound like the vast emptiness of the seats are filled with people, even though they’re not; yet the NBA championships are hosting full-to-capacity stadiums. The Stanley Cup finals were odd in that on the American side, crowds galore could cheer away together while in Canada, only a few in comparison could. Masks are highly suggested in some states, completely an afterthought in others, and rapidly becoming mandatory in places where the Delta variant of the virus is threatening to rage with impunity again. And forget even thinking about the next school year!

How does the ordinary person go through it all? Comedian John Mulaney, in the quote above, wasn’t referring to Covd when he was talking to Stephen Colbert on the Late Show – this was before Covid – but the sentiment, to me, applies exactly. I also think everything is going to be okay, but I have no idea what is going to happen next.

And all of this uncertainty, all of this unknowing… it’s not a great feeling. Sometimes I feel alone when I say that. I certainly do when so many people I know are just taking Covid in stride, declaring it a thing they just need to deal with the way we need to deal with lots of catastrophic things in our lives. And they’re not wrong; there’s a very real possibility that Covid will just be a thing that hangs around forever now, the way extreme weather does, for example. I’m just not there yet.

I don’t know if the precautions I am taking are the correct ones. I don’t know that I’m just delaying an inevitability if this thing really does keep going in its relentlessness. I don’t know when things will return to a normalcy I’m used to. And it’s true that we all don’t know, together. We are all just looking at things one day at a time.

I don’t know that it’s wrong to do that; to make decisions based on the outcome of what we’ve done before. That’s how we learn, isn’t it? We make mistakes and remember (or try, to) for next time. It is also true, however, that the stakes feel higher.

The “new normal” is everything but, but it is a reality. It’s not a reality we asked for, but it’s here anyway, and so the question becomes how we’re going to adapt. Your adaptation may look different than mine, but as we go through our days, let’s keep in mind that what Mulaney said was true: we’ve never not known together. We may indeed not have the right answers. But we’re all trying. And please know you’re not trying alone!

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.