The mid-pandy drama vortex, and how to escape it.

Feeling stuck? Frustrated by the news? You’re not the only one.

When did you hit your pandemic wall?

For me, it was a few weeks ago, when I stepped onto a scale. It’s been six months since Texas began lockdowns in April, and in that time, like most of y’all, I’ve been less active and spending more time on social media than is healthy – and you can see it in my waistline, of course, but also in my energy level. I’m less effective, more distractible, less focused.

Those who have been through an extended crisis have a phrase for this part: the six-month wall. (I’ve just been calling it “mid-pandy” but I admit… that’s less scientific.)

Your battery is dead

There’s another name for the mental state that gets us through crises: surge capacity.

Surge capacity is how your body & your brain responds to crisis and stress. We’re good at doing this in the short term; adrenaline takes over, fight-or-flight instincts kick in. But a pandemic is different; it unravels normal life while asking us to continue as if nothing was wrong. Work, school, the usual routines – while systems fail around us, or can’t solve our problems.

“Why do you think you should be used to this by now? We’re all beginners at this,” says psychologist Ann Masten. “This is a once in a lifetime experience. It’s expecting a lot to think we’d be managing this really well.”

I don’t think I know anyone at this point who would say they’re handling this well. We’re all hitting that wall, in small ways and big ways.

“This is our next major adaptation phase,” says Dr. Aisha Ahmad, who works in war zones and has experienced this six-month wall. “We’ve already re-learned how to do groceries, host meetings, and even teach classes. And we have found new ways to be happy and have fun. But as the days get shorter and colder, we need to be ready to innovate again.”

Give yourself a time-out

“Of course, there are things we have to do – work, teach, et cetera,” Dr. Ahmad says. “But don’t expect to be sparklingly happy or wildly creative in the middle of your wall. Right now, if you can meet your obligations and be kind to your loved ones, you get an A+.”

I got out into nature, went back to yoga, but my mind was still stuck in some ruts, scraping up against that wall. I realized that for me, it’s about letting go of the Big Drama that seems to be hanging in the air above all of us: politics.

You can guess which side I lean towards, being a gun toting, cigar smoking banker from Lubbock. But before you assign me to a team & issue me a red shirt, I don’t feel like I belong on either side. I’m tired. I’m tired of everyone needing to join a side. I’m tired of everyone tearing each other down.

How do we all grow up and focus on solutions? Where are the adults?

(By the way, I’m not the only one who thinks the current political paradigm leaves something to be desired. If you think our choices both suck, you are not alone; check out Unity2020 and Ben Hunt’s writing on this topic.)

Escape the drama triangle

There’s this process from Stagen focused on digging yourself out of this “everything sucks, everything is dumb” mode, or in their words, moving from “unresourceful” to “resourceful” and “empowered.” It’s called “escaping the drama triangle” and I highly recommend sitting down with it and letting yourself really think about it. (Download this to get started.)

For me, it’s a three step process to empowerment:

  1. Identify bad behaviors and where they come from (e.g. scrolling through Twitter, getting mad about politics)
  2. Identify what I can and can’t do about those behaviors.
  3. Finding “small victories” that pull me away from the bad behaviors and into a place of empowerment & solutions; for me it’s fishing, ideally away from a cell signal, or ensuring I make my daily yoga appointment.

Have you hit your wall? What is your bad pandemic behavior, and how are you conquering it? Drop me a line right here.

P.S. If you really want to know how social media is messing with our brains and our spirits, watch “Social Dilemma” on Netflix. You’ll never look at your Facebook feed the same way again.

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