Coping with the Times
Note: This article initially appeared in my email newsletter, Roughing It.
You can join the list here.
It's been a while since I've written here. Five and a half months, to be more precise. The last email was #13: Urban Camping, which I sent out on March 15. That was the weekend when the COVID lockdown started. A couple of days after, I went to San Diego on business. I pieced my way back to Virginia Beach between cancelled flights a week later. And then, like a lot of us, I went into self-isolation.
All things considered, the last few months have been okay. I haven't gotten sick. I've had work that I can do from home on my own schedule. And a lot of people have needed help to extend their businesses' online presence in the new market environment, so I've been needed, and I've been able to create some impressive solutions. I've loved making a difference for others in this way. And I've also been able to see my son more in these last few months than I have in the last few years. Strangely, however, it's also been a really tough time.
Lately, I've been thinking about the low-level internal dissonance that I've been feeling. Sometimes, it looks like just not being able to hit my stride for days at a time. Other times, I've felt mentally scattered. I'd venture to say that we've probably all had days where we can't stop reading the news, and nights where we can't sleep. And then there's the inexplicable feeling of exhaustion. I've imagined that, for me, at least, a lot of this was the result of the crazy uncertainty of the times we're living in—the stress of thinking about the unknown, the disruption of routines, and a fair bit of grief from loss of things in life that we're probably never really going to go back to.
I brought all this up recently to a client as we were making small talk at the start of a one of our biweekly scheduled phone calls. The project that we had been working on is one of my bigger ones this year, with a launch date coming up on January 1, 2021—just three months away. There were some things with the project that had stalled, and we needed to get it back on track. What was making things so difficult? My contact half-joked that she and her teammate had been calling it "Covid brain": the ongoing and persistent condition of feeling both simultaneously on edge and unable to focus. I looked the term up. Apparently, it is one that people have actually been starting to use. There's a neurological explanation for it. But, regardless, I knew immediately what she was talking about. And just being able to put a name on it instantly made it feel more manageable. As they say, when you understand something, you can take control of it.
So, how does one deal with Covid brain? How do you get clarity and rebuild momentum? Personally, I've recognized that I needed time to adapt. That's normal. Adjustment takes time. I can be patient with the process. Also, I've stopped waiting. The landscape has changed. I've assumed that things are not going back to the way they were, so I have to make a new program for my life—one that involves new habits, new patterns, and new pursuits. Designing a new way of life has been invigorating. Finally, I've simplified. Identifying the things that are most important—work, fitness, relationships—and directing my attention to those things has helped me to feel a renewed sense of calm and satisfaction.
Recently, I saw a video by a therapist and coach who talked about some of his own struggles with burnout and anxiety over the course of the last few months. A solution that he came up with was to re-establish a definitive pattern of self care by running every day for 100 days straight. He had some good insights, and the four minute video is worth a view.
I'd be interested to hear how you've been coping with some of the ups and downs. Hit the reply button here and let me know what's worked for you. Or simply reply and say hello. I'd love to hear from you.
For the near future, I have a few things planned. I'll be sending out another issue of this newsletter next week, with a new podcast episode to follow. Stay tuned. I'll hope to be in touch.
Thanks for reading,