Most parts of the country have spent at least a full six months living in our new pandemic quarantine culture. We buckled down, knowing things would be different for quite some time. We pivoted to socialization via video chat, social media, and mobile apps. We’ve ordered in and picked up household necessities curbside. Civilization has quickly pivoted to enable distancing and prioritize health.
But what about mental health?
If you’re feeling a little burned out or depressed and struggling with routine in a way that’s almost baffling, you could be maxing out your surge capacity. Distinguished McKnight University professor, Ann Masten, defines surge capacity as the resources we draw on for survival in acutely stressful situations. Surge capacity is also a fundamental building block of resilience – the capacity of a system to adapt to challenges. And every member of your household is probably wearing a little bit thin as we’ve entered yet another season without our cultural and coping norms.
Six months into the pandemic with little clarity around how and when life will return to normal, Masten says, “We’re past the short-term window where we can surge a lot of capacity and we’re now struggling with the ongoing depletion of our energy and resources.” While circumstances may be unpredictable, science journalist Tara Haelle offers a set of coping mechanisms purpose built for waning surge capacity. She draws on wisdom from doctor and motivational speaker Michael Maddaus’s “resilience bank account” theory, which suggests we can build a resilience practice over time that better equips us to make it through trials with flying colors.
They’re pretty basic and incrementally achievable: sleep, nutrition, exercise, meditation, self-compassion, gratitude, connection, and saying ‘no’ to obligations. Maddaus recommends starting small in one or two of these areas and adding stores to your “bank account” over time. Return to the basics of self-care and see your resilience gradually rebuilt.
Rest assured, “nothing’s normal” is the new normal, and you’re doing great. Hang in there and start taking small steps to rebuild your energy today. For more on surge capacity, listen to Brene Brown’s recent podcast on this topic and the importance of incorporating play into your everyday.
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