This psychological phenomenon explains why you feel so burnt out in lockdown

This psychological phenomenon explains why you feel so burnt out in lockdown

Words by Talia Rinaldo

You can thank a little thing called ‘surge capacity’.

I’m usually quite a chipper, positive and bubbly human, even at the worst of times, but returning indoors for the second wave of lockdown has quickly dwindled my enthusiasm.

Looking back to the first wave of restrictions, productivity was at an all-time high. I was nervous about what was happening but determined to make the best of it. I baked more cookies in a week than I have my whole life, I bought a ukulele and would practice every single day, I signed up for a 49-day online yoga membership and spent many evenings rolling around on the mat in my room.

I also spent most nights reconnecting with friends via HouseParty and I spent a pretty sizeable portion of my time chuckling at memes about it all. I was feeling good.

Then restrictions eased.

I experienced a short but sweet taste of normality, seeing friends and family at cafes and bars, exploring the great outdoors and indulging in beers and footy at a mate’s place… Life seemed good, relatively speaking.

But then the second wave came and the return to lockdown rules hit me for six.

Now I would rather order takeout than cook; I prefer to turn on Netflix than pick up the ukulele, and I would most certainly opt for a nap over yoga. The memes are all the same, and even though the Victorian government is scheduled to unveil a roadmap for easing restrictions across the state this Sunday, I’m at the point where I feel, that to some degree, these restrictions are never going to end.

And I’m not alone.

During my weekend spent scrolling through Instagram (because what else have I got to do?), I came across multiple posts talking about something called ‘surge capacity’.

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In an article originally posted by Mamamia, the writer talked about surge capacity which is ‘a collection of adaptive systems, both mental and physical, which humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters.’

According to the article, surge capacity only allows us to adapt to major disasters if they are temporary, however, with the pandemic, the disaster stretches out and has created a kind of uncertainty none of us are used to and it feels indefinite.

Essentially, everyone’s feeling like there’s no end in sight. And because this is going on and on, our surge capacity is completely exhausted and it needs to be renewed.

When you think of it like that, it makes complete sense that we’re hitting a wall, especially considering it’s been six months now since the government tore out our hearts and stomped them flat with the onslaught of social restrictions, the closure of café and pubs, the cancellations of thousands of events, the order to work from home and the news that it’s likely we won’t see any festivals until there’s a coronavirus vaccine. That last one still hurts.

Throw face masks and the rule against hugging your mates in, and it all feels pretty grim.

To overcome the effects of surge capacity, Mamamia suggest a couple of things, including accepting that life is different now; expecting less from ourselves; recognising the different aspects of grief, and looking for both new and old activities that continue to fulfil you. How you do it is completely up to you, but the idea is to go easy on yourself.

Another important thing to do right now is to focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships, connecting with those within your support network.

Maria Thattil, Indian Australian beauty expert, fashion blogger and digital influencer, highlighted the difference between productivity incited by inspiration and feeling the pressure to be productive to be ‘good enough’ or ‘keep up’.

It’s no doubt you’ve felt it – the pressure that this time in lockdown should be spent productively, whether that’s baking banana bread, exploring new hobbies or working on your fitness. Thattil emphasised the need to expect less from ourselves, and that, particularly in times of a pandemic, simply just waking up and showing up for the day is enough.

“Overloading your psychological resources with pressure because of ideas on what you ‘should’ be doing in undue in a time where you are living through an emotional taxing global crisis. Be kind to yourself and know that being good enough isn’t conditional. You just ‘are’,” she wrote on Instagram.

So essentially, just because we have more time at home, doesn’t necessarily mean it equates to having more capacity to give attention. And that ties into the notion of surge capacity.

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There is a difference between productivity incited by inspiration, and feeling pressure to be productive to be ‘good enough’ or to ‘keep up’. Particularly in the midst of a pandemic, just by waking up and showing up for the day – you are doing enough. Overloading your psychological resources with pressure because of ideas on what you “should” be doing is undue in a time where you are living though an emotionally taxing global crisis. Be kind to yourself and know that being good enough isn’t conditional. You just ‘are.’ Rest, innovating, working, achieving, relaxing – none of these are inherently “good” or “bad” investments of your time – it is your egoic mind that attributes meaning. Choose meanings that allow you to flourish. All my love. #MINDWITHME #productivity #selflove #empowerment #mindset #mentalhealth #resilience #pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns are emotionally taxing. We’re constantly hearing bad news, we’re reminded of the uncertainty surrounding the virus, we’ve had to completely change our lives, our financial situations have changed, and we’re also dealing with the anxiety around our own health and the safety of our loved ones.

It’s a bloody shit time, to say the least, but if I’ve learned anything from my weekend reading it’s that we need to stop being so hard on ourselves. We’re bored, exhausted, stressed, anxious, annoyed, frustrated, the list goes on. So, if you don’t feel like maintaining a routine, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, that’s perfectly okay. And you sure as hell don’t have to pretend to have it all together.

We’re in a global pandemic. Our surge capacities have crashed, but we’ll get there.

Be kind to yourself.

If you or a loved one need help, contact headspace on 1800 650 890 or Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

This article originally appeared on Forte