Panic and weariness

The face of London was much altered…sorrow and sadness sat upon every face. And though some were not yet overwhelmed, yet all looked deeply concerned; and as we saw it apparently coming on, so everyone looked upon himself, and his family, as in the utmost danger.

Is this an extract from a piece on Covid in one of the broadsheets? A quote from Channel 4 news, perhaps?

It’s actually over 250 years old. It comes from Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, and describes the panic that accompanied the arrival of the bubonic plague in the City of London in 1665.

Life in a time of pestilence and pandemic goes through certain phases, as we are all learning.

Humans have been hard-wired over thousands and thousands of years to survive in an environment where acutely stressful situations, like natural disasters, don’t last long even if it takes time to recover from them. We are built to cope with these sorts of events, falling back on something psychologists call “surge capacity” made up of physical reactions like releasing adrenaline and mental mechanisms like reducing and intensifying our focus. These get us through the immediate emergency to the clear-up stage after the disaster is over.

But, like all emergency circuits, it is designed to be very effective for a short period and then it’s depleted and needs to be refuelled. And that’s where the problem lies. This pandemic is both acute and chronic. It is dragging on and we don’t know when or how it will end, promised vaccines notwithstanding.

So if you are feeling bored of the whole thing, if you never want another Zoom meeting ever, if you just feel like pulling the quilt over your head and sleeping until it’s all over…please don’t worry! You are having a perfectly normal reaction to something human beings aren’t equipped for. Your natural coping mechanisms have been used up and yet the emergency continues. You are experiencing BURNOUT, the condition caused by one or more of a person’s natural coping systems being overused and pressurised until they fall over.

And that happens to the healthiest and strongest among us. If you have an underlying physical or psychological condition, Covid-stress works like a catalyst to make everything worse, sometimes much worse.

So be kind to yourself. You are not weak, or cowardly, or pathetic. You are normal.

Let’s hope everything else becomes normal too….and very quickly!

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