the fatigue is real

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So… we’ve been at this virus thing a while now, and we’re getting worn down. The initial adrenaline has worn off – as it should. We were not created to live with an enduring adrenaline rush.

We embraced the novelty of our new realities, using creativity and technology to survive, but that has gotten old too. Now, the isolation, the confinement, the messes, the unknowns, and the losses are accumulating… and they add up to a whole lot of tired. I began to make a list of some of the exhaustion culprits.

Zoom Fatigue

When we use the same platform for everything (work meetings and one-on-ones, socializing and virtual parties, family events, church services, online classes, doctors’ appointments, and maybe counseling too), we have no context changes and we. sit. way. too. much. In addition, the audio lags, “frozen” visuals, and mute-mistakes create mental agitation. The self-view ensures ongoing self-criticism, and the home-background-view can cause social comparison. The lack of eye-contact (do I look at the screen faces or at the camera?) and the group direct-staring is abnormal and relationally draining.   

Information Fatigue

I don’t know about you, but I’ve gone from reading voraciously and talking constantly about every single coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) detail to not wanting to see another C19 chart, graph, statistic, comment, or hand-washing video. My head is full of contradicting, ever-changing, anxiety-raising, conflict-causing (mis) information, and I don’t have the energy to input more data into my brain.

Decision Fatigue

It seems that all previously simple choices have become overly complex and complicated. Going to the store for groceries now requires consideration of all the safety features and evaluation against the risk of catching the virus or – even more concerning – the possibility of passing it on to someone else. Is it safe to get my hair cut or go to the dentist? Do I wear a mask? How can I support local businesses and those in need?

Uncertainty Fatigue

I say “I don’t know” or “Nobody knows” a lot. So many plans are on hold with no clear direction in sight. We write events into the calendar in pencil, hold anxiously to job hopes, and worry about the economy. When will we get back to the way things were before? What will be the new “normal”? How will our world be forever changed?  

I could go on and on…

  • Isolation Fatigue
  • No-Alone-Time Fatigue
  • Messiness Fatigue
  • Boredom Fatigue
  • Worry Fatigue
  • Fear Fatigue
  • Room (house) Fatigue

They say the first step to healing is naming the pain. It is helpful to realize just how much pressure is landing heavily on our shoulders each day. Our world is crazy-different than it was only a few months ago.

When I recognize the effort I am putting into getting through each day, I can give myself grace when I can’t see through my brain fog, when I am grumpy, or when I cry for no reason. I can also more easily encourage myself to rest, take a break, or ignore the “should-do-list.”

I can also give that same grace and encouragement to others.

What is causing you fatigue? How can you give pressure-lifting grace and encouragement to yourself or to others?

powerful purposeful habits

The Common Rule by Justin Whitmel Early

I haven’t read a complete book in one day in… I don’t know how long. But I had a quiet, no-urgent-task Saturday, a beautiful fresh-breeze sunny day, and an empty back-porch couch all to myself. And I had a great book, full of authentic hopeful words that drew me in and gave nourishment to my soul.

It was a powerful combination –
one that doesn’t happen often.

I almost gave up on The Common Rule at first. It seemed a bit over-simplified, and after a number of heart-wrenching, mind-numbing, complex, and difficult years, I am not a big fan of “just do this…” kind of answers. However, the more I read, the more Justin Whitmel Earley captured me with his authenticity and his grasp of reality as he offered flexible options that could work for our many-varied steps on the journey.

Early writes about habits.

Habits of purpose,
habits that counter our decision fatigue,
habits that “form our hearts” and lead us to love. 

He recommends eight habits in the book. The habits focus on loving God and others and on refreshing our hearts while we resist those easy-to-fall-into tendencies that wear us down.

The habits are not about legalistic ritual. They are suggested to battle self-condemnation, anxiety, isolation, hurriedness, and injustice. The habits lead us toward peace, gratefulness, compassion, deeper relationships, and rest. Which one of us of doesn’t long for those things?

Earley’s habits are as simple as having one meal with others each day or turning off the phone for one hour a day. But they are not easy.

The eight habits of purpose

The most ordinary habits of limitation create
the most extraordinary lives of meaning.

So far, I have implemented into my days only parts of some of his suggested habits, but I am encouraged that even those have made a difference. In these days of so much uncertainty, chaos, and loss of routine, regular life-giving habits can provide help for building the resilience we need for the long-term changes we have in front of us. They certainly gave me hope and I think adding some habits of purpose into your life might give you hope too.

If you have read the book or read it now, please share with me what you thought about it. I’d love to hear from you.

What helpful habits do you have in your life? 

building resilience

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I mentioned in my last post that I needed resilience. I didn’t know yet the depth of that truth.

A few weeks later and the “drag” of our situation is wearing on me more than ever. I feel the weight of my own emotions and inconveniences. I am burdened by the pain and struggles of those who are suffering much more than me. I see others reacting with great frustration to the limitations and longevity of the virus impact.

Our stress behaviors show off loudly these days.

It helps to remember that anytime we adjust to something new (new job, new home, new family member), it tires us out. So much about our situation is new right now. New ways of working or going to school – or losing those things. New ways of getting basic supplies or doing without. New ways of interacting or missing interactions no longer available to us.

Uncertainty is wearing. We typically do not like to stand at the crossroads without clear direction, but everything about our future feels unknown. Many decisions that were previously straightforward require more thought now. In addition, we often have to consider the complexity of how our choices affect others.

The loss of anticipated activities and celebrations also depletes our motivation. Feeling out-of-control, vulnerable, or trapped is unnerving. Isolation, loneliness, fear, and grief are physically exhausting. So is living in tight quarters with others who are also expressing their reactions to this out-of-control life. Everyone is at least slightly on edge – some of us much more than others. So what can we do?

SHUT DOWN THE “SHOULDS”

Erasing unrealistic expectations and perfection-pressure helps us conserve needed kindness and compassion for ourselves and others. When I replace “I should be… do… act like…” with a humble recognition of my weakness, I often find others willing to step in with forgiveness and help. I am learning to set goals (significantly) lower than normal at times, leaving margin for those days when motivation, energy, and creativity wanes.

GRACE.  GRACE.  GRACE.

I have repeated this word more times than I can count. Encouraging myself and others to offer grace and acceptance rather than criticism, judgement, or anger is crucial. It’s not easy to do, and I fail often, but we all desperately need it. I’m taking initiative to reach out to others and lean into relationships – even when it is hard for me. I hope that practice will stick with me over time.

TAKE CARE

I am thinking about how I can prepare myself for the long-term effects of our “new world”. Awareness of all the above helps. As does taking care of my physical needs as much as possible (healthy routines, sleep, fresh air, good food, water). Working on a significant, joy-giving, or worthwhile project each day/week gives me energy too.

The flower above is my inspiration – beautiful, strong, and resilient – growing courageously and miraculously in the crevice of that challenging rock. Ironically, that impressive perseverance would not be needed or visible without the challenge.

What has been most difficult for you this past week? How are you building your resilience?

on the roller coaster

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I have always loved roller coasters – the wind-in-your-hair speed, the crazy-high ascents that plummet headlong into out-of-your-seat descents, the crushing-your-neighbor curves, the hands raised high, and the laughter screams – oh, the screams. I have loved them backward, upside down, twisting, and splash-landing into water. I have especially loved riding the roller coasters with a beloved family member at my side.

But things have changed.

We are on a roller coaster of
circumstances, life habits and emotions.

And I do not like it. I have worked hard to adjust and adapt. I have helped my family create new places to study and work and purchase what is needed. I have controlled my anxiety and fear and helped others work through theirs. We have figured out how to stay away from people physically and still stay connected virtually. We keep our personal space, wear our masks and wash our hands.

Every day the ride changes.

The statistics of cases and deaths keep rising and invading one location after another. The estimates for business and school re-openings are months away with nothing certain yet. Hope and discouragement regularly alternate their visits; sometimes they show up simultaneously and sometimes they hide in a crowd of unnamed emotions. As soon as we get one challenge figured out and come up with a satisfactory alternative, something else changes or gets taken away. The economic impact is adding a spinning-saucer sensation to this roller coaster and that stomach-churning effect is one I have never enjoyed.

I am remembering today that roller coaster rides are usually very short-lived, a few breathtaking minutes at the most. This crazy ride we are on is going to last much longer. The highs and lows and the twists and turns go on and on and on. I have had enough already. I want to get off, but I can’t. 

I will need resilience.

An extended journey requires a different mindset and different preparation than a ride that lasts only a few minutes. This crisis demands long-term physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual care. I cannot simply hold my breath for the few brief moments of a short thrill ride. I will need deep, long, oxygen-filling breaths to give me endurance for the distance. Attitudes and actions must be adjusted, and then re-adjusted again, for a long haul. It helps to remember Who travels with me.

Thankfully, although I cannot control my situation, I can control much of my reaction to the circumstances. In this case, simply recognizing the kind of ride I am on, gives me new perspective and helps me choose a better response.

How are you getting through this crazy crisis ride?

Your Story Matters

Graphic credit: Your Story Matters launch team

We are going through crazy times – a world pandemic never before experienced in our lifetimes. We would never have believed it if someone had told us a few weeks ago that:

  • All schools and colleges would be closed except for online studies
  • All professional sports and music concerts would cancel their upcoming events
  • International and domestic flights would be grounded and country borders would be closed
  • The Olympics would be postponed
  • Beaches and National Parks would off-limits
  • We’d be maintaining six-foot “personal cones of protection” and wearing masks out in public
  • Millions of people would suddenly be out of work
  • In some places, tax collections and school loan repayments would be postponed and some landlords would not be charging rent
  • Divided governments would be collaborating like never before on economic stimulus packages

This mind-boggling new world is affecting us each in different ways. Some are very isolated and lonely as they are in lockdown alone in their homes. Others are overwhelmed as they have suddenly taken on homeschooling and/or they are trying to work with young children underfoot, on their laps, and yelling in their ears. Many are living in vulnerable and unsafe situations in their own homes or homeless on the streets. Others are not able to stay home and are working in risky job situations to take care of the rest of us. Some have lost jobs. Others are fearful of the future. Many are stepping into creative and generous ways of helping with needs. Each story is different.

Each story matters.

I have been processing my experience during these crazy times by journaling and by writing in this blog. There have been some really hard, sad, and tumultuous effects due to this virus. We have also made beneficial adjustments in our new way of life. One thing I want to do is record the changes I have made in my life during this time so that I do not go back so easily to status quo behaviors when this is over.

I want to remember.

That is one of the reasons I am grateful that a book launch is happening right now and I get to recommend Leslie Leyland Fields excellent work titled, Your Story Matters.

Leslie Leyland Fields hosts an incredible writers workshop on a private island in Alaska. She also does a few workshops in other places, but for most of us, attending one of those workshops won’t work because of travel or cost limitations, especially now.

Thankfully, Leslie’s new book is like having her workshop brought right to your home. As you read and write your way through Your Story Matters, Leslie explains the “why” it is important to write your story and the specifics of “how” to do it. Her coaching is honest, grace-filled, encouraging and easy to follow.

The chapters are full of wonderful examples and helpful writing prompts. If you have ever believed you can’t or shouldn’t write, Leslie is about to change that. If you have ever thought about writing for publication, to process what has or is happening in your life, or to preserve family memories, now is a great time to do that.

I highly recommend using some of your time during this once-in-a-lifetime situation to write or record your experience and emotions – your story – in some way. You could compose a song, record a video, or write. Leslie’s book will help you remember and tell your story. I highly recommend it.

How are you processing and recording your unique story?


Get Leslie’s book on Amazon now!

when anger and grief decide to visit

 

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Anger and grief showed up this week. I didn’t invite them. I hope they won’t stay long.

We’ve been through a lot these past few weeks-going-on-months. Through the crazy, uncertainties, changes, and inconveniences, I have maintained a fairly good attitude and my faith has withstood the storm.

This week, however, my heart was sucker-punched with some bad news and, as is often the case, my pain quickly turned to anger. I was angry at God. I was angry at myself and I was angry at my inability to fix things that are out of my control and that I don’t like.

As I sat with (or, more honestly, embraced) my anger for the better part of the day, the hard self-protective shell around my heart finally started to give way to the legitimate pain underneath. I recognized that I am very tired. Tired from some long-standing sadness that I’ve been carrying around for a while and tired from the emotional weight of our new reality. Tired of simple decisions now requiring an analysis of so many possible ramifications. I am grieving the suffering and the deaths, the struggles of those who are losing their jobs and those who are still working their jobs at great risk. I am grieving the loss of connection, independence, and freedom for us all.

In the midst of that unwelcome intrusion, I needed to remember (maybe you do too?) that anger and grief emotions are valid and real, and they do not need to be brushed aside immediately with positive thoughts or spiritual truths, hidden away under guilt and shame, or diminished by comparisons with something worse that someone else is experiencing. 

I have felt like an empathy failure at times because brushing aside, hiding, or comparing have been my responses all too often. That has made it more difficult for me – and for others – to process emotions and begin to heal.

I want to be more hospitable to anger and grief.

I am learning that it helps to share my emotions with a safe person, someone who can handle the authentic honesty of my heart. Many times God is my safe person through journaling or praying. I am intentionally working to be that kind of safe person for others, biting my tongue when it would be easier for me to offer ideas and try to “fix-it”, and instead simply be there for others in their pain until they are ready for something else from me. 

I recognize that anger and sorrow and healing will often share the same table with my joys and gratefulness and productivity. They are not one-time guests. Their presence makes for a messier living space than I prefer, but I am learning to be ok with that.

How do you handle anger and grief?

_______________

**As I was writing this, I listened to Brene Brown’s recent podcast and she shared helpful tips for living with our emotions. It’s really good and covers more than I can in a few words.

it’s a little tricky

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In 2014, we downsized to a townhome as new “empty nesters”. All of our children lived in other states and we wanted an easy-care, safe-to-leave-for-travel, smaller place for our new stage of life. We had an office, a guest room, and an open-concept kitchen/livingroom combo – plenty for the two of us.

Fast forward to 2020… the coronavirus has four of us living in and working from our little townhouse, often with one additional and her sweet beagle sleeping on the couch. Office desks are in the hall. The guest bedroom has converted to a recording studio. The open-concept downstairs plays tug-of-war between sleeping quarters and morning coffee-making and evening all-family TV watching interruptions. Online schooling and conference calling are desperately searching for quiet spaces and fighting battles for bandwidth.

Life has changed dramatically.

We are a family that loves each other deeply and we are known to be fairly low-maintenance when temporarily residing in locations away from home.

But this is different.

This is not a vacation or a voluntary friendly visit. Although some of us had chosen to live together before the virus crisis, now this arrangement carries the descriptor of “have to”. We have to stay inside away from others, we have to go to school and work from home, we have to do this for… no one knows how long. 

And we are all together in this place with the additional pressures of fears of the unknowns, health concerns, food and supplies challenges, separations from friends, and restrictions from the routines that give us life.

We are all adjusting in our own ways. Our personalities and preferences bump up next to each other occasionally. Ok, often. Some feel lonely. Others, claustrophobic. Some fear they will be the cause of family illness.

Plenty of feelings exist
that cannot even be identified yet.

One thing is common between us all – we are committed to get through this together -and get through it having learned and grown and hopefully come out the other end as better people for each other and our world.

Some of the things that have been helpful so far:

  • Communication – Have a “house discussion” – How are we all doing emotionally, logistically? We talked about our feelings and also how much outside interaction and inside invitations make us uncomfortable. We plan to meet like this regularly to check up on each other.
  • Conflict resolution – Name the issues. We are each very different and we respond differently to stress. We want to give grace to each other and not expect that we will all react in the same ways. We are attempting to resolve irritations and miscommunications quickly.
  • Consistency – I’ve read that regular awake and devotion/reflection times, exercise and eating routines, as much as possible, are helpful when homebound.
  • Creativity – Digital ways of working and schooling, new on-line shopping methods, new furniture arrangements, experimenting with new recipes to use what is on hand have surfaced as we considered new options.
  • Connections – Using face-visual technology to connect with friends and family doesn’t fill our social-distancing vacuum, but it helps to actually see the smiles… and the tears. We are praying for those who are serving us in health care, working essential jobs, and getting sick or desperately trying to avoid that risk.
  • Creation and Sunshine – We are getting outside as much as possible. For some of you, a short-duration open window may be all you can handle. A few deep breaths while I am there slow my heart rate and calm my soul.

I’m certain your life has changed quite a bit in the last few weeks. What is helping you manage your new reality?

fear and faith

stress shutterstock_251223184

How the world has changed in just a few weeks. We have described our global environment as VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) for a while, but it has become less of an intellectual exercise and much more tangible and real in our experience now.

In my 59 years, I have never experienced a pandemic like this. I am simultaneously already tired of reading and hearing about the COVID-19 virus and uncontrollably addicted to the rapidly changing news updates. It is easy to understand why people are fearful and panic-buying, especially if they have special circumstances and loved ones who are more vulnerable.

Personally, I want to do what is best for my family and for others. At the same time, I do not want to contribute to the hysteria or the shortages of important items needed by our health care workers. I am altering my ideas, plans, and strategies day by day as the situation changes. I’m sure you are also.

I am struggling to know where to get the information I can trust. Although I am grateful to work for an organization that has teams of people making decisions to keep us safe, I am concerned for those who do not have the flexibility to work from home and whose income will be greatly affected by the inevitable closures. I have no outstanding words of wisdom, no tried and true advice, no surety of next steps to offer others. I, like many of you, am searching through the noise fog to discern what to do one day at a time.

Despite all of the chaos in my mind, I feel (mostly) at peace. It is encouraging to see people offering to help in so many different ways. I am more focused on what is most important, forcibly slowing down, and confident that my family will rally together to get through whatever happens in the future.

I trust that my God is not surprised or overwhelmed by all of this and that He is still loving and good and in control.

That may seem illogical to some, but faith is my strongest source of hope, and I would not want to go through this without Him.

I am praying for you, whoever you are reading this today. I pray that you will not be afraid, but rather will continue to seek answers – to your logistical, what-do-I-do-today questions – and also to your deeper faith questions too. There are no stupid questions; they are valid and real, and I believe that God will prove faithful despite our concerns and ultimately provide the strongest answer to our fears.

How are you doing in these crazy times? What are your fears? How is your faith sustaining you?


You might also want to read facing our fears

Win Every Day – book review

Mark Miller sells chicken. He also writes books.

Blake Brown is the main character in Mark’s High Performance series of books. Blake is a fictional business leader who teaches us principles of influence and execution through his life story. In Mark’s new book, Win Every Day, Blake learns, from his son’s high school football coach, how to lead a team to consistent quality results. Whether or not you are a sports fan, the principles in this book can help you reach your organizational goals by bringing out the best in your people.

“We will not drift to greatness.

Coach Moore reminds Blake that we must be intentional – each and every day – if we want to achieve great things. That intentionality shows up in three ways:

  • Pursue Mastery – a level of skill where the desired behavior is consistent, execution is flawless, and the behavior is second nature.

On this point, I appreciated the important distinction between pressure-filled, discouraging expectations of specific behaviors and motivating goals that inspire us to aim for desired behaviors every day.

  • Own the Numbers – visible, personally-owned metrics that keep each person accountable

This is an area that is challenging in a faith-based non-profit organization – people progress is not easy to measure. However, Blake’s story has convinced me that it is worth the effort to define markers that make a difference that each person can care about and aim for… and celebrate when reached.

  • Help Others Win – teamwork that encourages and challenges each one to give his/her best effort

Blake also learns that individual “players” do not keep up this kind of intentionally without the leader continuing to coach the process and communicate well while guarding against arrogance and complacency.

I liked the way Mark integrated simple yet powerful principles into the story. I resonated with the combination of coaching the best from people, creating helpful systems, and using metrics to measure progress towards desired goals.

“Your choices are the only things you can control.
Choose wisely.

In our crazy complex and changing world, there is little we can control… but we do make choices every day. This book is an easy-to-read, helpful reminder of basic principles that make a difference to those we lead and in our results. When we are passionate about what we do, our results matter.

How might you apply one or more of these principles as you lead or influence others?

 

seeing myself as a system

cables clint-adair-BW0vK-FA3eg-unsplash

I’m reading a book these days about leading change. My hope is that the book will help me and my team learn how to help others flourish – even through changes in our fast-paced, uncertain, complex world. I am learning a lot that will apply to the organization, but this morning I read something that applies personally to me.

I’ve struggled for a while with my inability to name my own desires and preferences with confidence. I hear others say without hesitancy, “This is what I like” or “This is who I am”, but I can’t seem to do that. I’ve wondered why. I’ve wondered if something was wrong with me.

The chapter titled, “See Yourself as a System”, gave me a fresh way to look at this.

The chapter starts out with the story of an Army officer who does not agree with some of the self-protective but unstrategic behaviors of the men he is commanding, but who does not stand up to them because he wants solidarity with the unit. The officer’s tension is an illustration of the complexity of our human system, with its “competing values and interests, preferences and tendencies, aspirations and fears¹”, many of which he linked back to needs he had developed during his upbringing.

The authors explain that our personal system is an inter-tangled network of our personality, life story, intellect, skills, and emotional intelligence. Our behaviors and decisions are affected by all of that and the situations, conditions, loyalties, experiences, and bandwidth that we have at any given time.

The chapter suggests that we cannot effectively lead change if we do not understand our system and our “multiple identities” that are a result of that reality. Not multiple identities in a psychotic or lack of integrity kind of way, but the fact that we do – in a healthy, authentic way – show up differently depending on the role we play, the need of the times, and the new growth we can bring to a situation now.

Personally, I felt a sense of relief when I read this. I was encouraged to hear that my perceived struggle with a set identity definition could actually be a benefit to a changing organization when I view myself as a complex system – less easy to describe, growing, updating, and changing over-time, rather than static, fixed, defined, and fully-formed. It’s given me a hopeful lens to consider some of my tensions. I’m looking forward to reading more about loyalties, influence factors, and roles in the next chapters.

What do you think? What is your perspective on being a “system”? 


¹ R. Heifetz, A. Grashow & M. Linsly. 2009. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership – The Tools and Tactics for Changing your Organization and the World, Harvard Business Press, p 178.

Photo credit: Clint Adair on Unsplash