Ambiguous loss

Ambiguous loss

A friend posted an article about how our brains respond to a pandemic. Click here to read the article. Highly recommend would be a gross understatement. It helped me understand surge capacity and why some days it feels like a struggle to just get through the day. And the term I have needed for the past 6 months – ambiguous loss.

So first, what is surge capacity? Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. But natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely. We use our surge capacity to respond. But with no end in sight with the pandemic, our surge capacity is now depleted.

And, to make it worse, the things we normally do to recharge our surge capacity are off limits during a pandemic. I used to recharge by weekly walks with my best running friend, afternoon Kratom hang outs with my kids’ unofficial God parent, small group work outs, having alone time away from my family. Nope, nada, all of these are no more.

As a result, we are experiencing what some psychologists call “ambiguous loss.” We are grieving life as it once was, a life that might never return to what it was before.

So how do we rebuild our surge capacity? This was the part of the article us Type A people need. Tell me how to fix this unprecedented time in our lives!

My top 2 favorites (but they all are excellent recommendations) are:

  1. Expect less from yourself, and
  2. Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you.
  1. Expecting less of yourself. This means when I have those hard days, it is ok to just do the bare minimum. If it takes me longer to get projects done, that is ok. If I am not the best parent or partner every single day, that is ok. Also, embrace those good days when my brain works and I have energy to get things done. For me, that was Saturday. I re-stained our front porch, and it looks great. Sunday and Monday were harder, so I just made myself stick to my schedule of bare minimum things to accomplish.

2. Find new and old activities that fulfill me. One of my new activities is training to become a Guardian Ad Litem. I had actually interviewed and was set to start training pre-pandemic, but it took the State 5 mos to get the training all online. This training gives my afternoons some purpose, and I cannot wait to be an advocate for children in need in Chatham Co. I continue to work out, albeit via Zoom, but I make myself work out at least 3 times a week with a trainer. I know that there is no way I would have exercised on Monday if Ana had not Facetimed me at 10:30am. And guess what folks? I felt so much better after exercising. Gardening has always been a fulfilling activity, but August in North Carolina is HOT, so if I am going to work in one of my gardens, it needs to be in the morning. Some other oldies but goodies: listening to audiobooks, knitting, walks with puppies, and writing. Always writing.

I also try to remind myself that we are “best case scenario” in our pandemic. We have jobs, food, access to technology for online learning, etc. In other words, we have all the things we need. But, I am also learning that it is also ok to say “today was a shitty day.”

So fellow friends with depleted surge capacity, how are you rebuilding yours?

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