The Pandemic Hamster Wheel
Updated: Nov 19, 2020
Have you ever had the feeling of waking up Monday morning, you blink and now it is a Friday night? Nothing to complain about here, right? Wrong. Recently Friday night is just the beginning of a weekend that feels more of the same. This idea of a new normal is difficult to comprehend. ~ This is the feeling that so many of my clients have, as they're describing ~ The Pandemic Hamster Wheel: A feeling of repetitiveness with no end in sight. Resulting in emotions of defeat and discouragement. We know this is not gonna last forever, or so we hope? The endless feeling of the unknown combined with the repetitive environment we live and work in (for most), can create intense emotions and we retreat into AUTOPILOT ~ forming a numbness that has become an integral part of our lives. Around we go waiting for the year to end without knowing what is on the other side. Admittedly, I pushed off writing this blog since it would hit a sore spot for myself ~ we are all going through it! I’m here to use this blog to provide some new tactics. Assisting anyone to remain present and/or change things up to help get through this difficult time.
Why the hamster wheel makes sense.
Since March, we have all experienced A LOT of loss, some more than others. Life is more fragile than we give it credit for, and in this pandemic, we receive daily reminders that tomorrow is not promised. When the pandemic began ~ it became life-threatening to go shopping, see a friend for coffee, or even make a living ~ and because we cannot say the pandemic is over, these previously casual errands continue to provoke intense anxiety. Because of this new reality, we are now forced to sit with the anxiety that has been building up from the pandemic, without our pre-COVID outlets for handling stress; not to mention managing our awareness of the social injustice and the rising tensions of our political divides that are surrounding us.
I hope as you’re reading this, you will see that a numbing hamster wheel makes sense to provide a safe place for us to live and work in ~ a safe place to function within the chaos around us. The hamster wheel has a purpose until it starts holding you back from the moments that you need to be present for. I’ve heard many clients who are dissatisfied with the numb feeling also realizing the other side of the pandemic coin, is the opportunity for more time with family. The challenge for them is being present in these moments when they’ve become too accustomed to the numbness day-in and day-out.
Grief: a common denominator.
Before presenting any tactics, we need to understand why this so hard ~ it’s because we are grieving over our lives as we knew them. People often think grief simply appears after a single event, but whatever it is triggered by (a pandemic for example) creates discomfort, which rolls through us and around us. Grief presents in a wide range of emotions: waves of denial, sadness, confusion to name a few. I often tell clients who describe themselves stuck in The Pandemic Hamsterwheel, that they are witnessing our individual and collective grief response to this pandemic. Anger is especially common.
In this whirlwind of emotions, know that there is also the stage of ACCEPTANCE. This stage takes time to reach and can be the most challenging to attain because it requires the individual to start taking action to get there. This is what it can sound like, “Okay, this is the new normal, the cards I was dealt with. This is not a preferred situation but this is how I will play those cards.”
Slow down the wheel
Like any struggle in life, this moment is another opportunity to learn about yourself. This pandemic limited ways on how we normally cope with stressors (gym, traveling, social life, etc), and impacted our ability to fully escape. I encourage clients to challenge themselves to develop new ways to cope (journaling, mindfulness, home exercise). Finding alternatives means that allow for a healthy escape. At other times, provide ways to sit and process emotions that have been piling up.
If you’re at the very beginning of making these changes, start by breaking up the day. Add in or renew interest in hobbies/activities that make you feel good. Incorporate these activities into your already established routine, for example, Monday Yoga day, Tuesday Journaling, Wednesday Knitting, Thursday Running, Friday New activity day ~ like learning a language, or a new instrument. Lastly, even if it is not in the preferred setting, we still have access to friends and family. Opening up about your experience does help. Validation that you are not alone is a powerful coping tool.
When it comes down to it, these tactics can be our life raft in this turbulent ocean of 2020 and the unknown future. For more suggestions feel free to reach out. Thanks for reading.