Call it Covid Brain, Pandemic Fatigue, or Virus Mania; the lockdowns are causing people, especially caregivers, to burnout at an unprecedented rate. Well, let’s do something about it.
The Overloaded Brain
Covid is causing increased stress for many, especially caregivers, but not in ways you probably expect. Yes, many of us need to treat Covid patients, but that’s not the issue. The pandemic has turned previously innocuous activities into stressors and taken away many of our opportunities to refuel.
If you’re a caregiver, you usually get up, go to work, treat patients, and go home. Now you get up, social distance on your way to your car, put your mask on, get your temperature checked upon entering your workplace, don layers of PPE between every patient, complain about how hot your mask is, wash your hands until your epidermis falls off, get in your car that smells like sanitizing gel, go home, and shower until the next layer of skin falls off. Oh, happy day. Our new routine has caused us to be exhausted even without caring for a patient.
If that’s not bad enough, we have lost many of our opportunities to refuel. Most of us can’t go to restaurants, movies, the gym, or hang out with friends. These activities help us regain our energy and recharge. Without it, we have a recipe for disaster.
Our Burned Out Brain
Physiologically, our bodies are in Epi overdrive. We produce epinephrine when we are stressed – both good stress and bad. Our sympathetic nervous system (the fight/flight) kicks in, which helps us get things done. But too much breaks down our body. Moreover, there is a circuit in the brain that measures how much Epinephrine is in our system. Too much and the brain triggers a quitting mechanism.
That’s why we have the parasympathetic nervous system to balance that out. What our body needs is more of the well-being molecules to be released, namely Dopamine, Serotonin, and Oxytocin. But we aren’t getting it because we are in a constant state of stress, and we are in Epinephrine Overload. So let’s do something about it!
More Dopamine Please
Dopamine is the feel-good neuro-modulator that is released at different times, one of which is during goal-oriented behavior. It’s like the rocket boost that is released not only when we accomplish goals but during the process of achieving it.
Serotonin and Oxytocin are released at different times, including during the fostering of good relationships. These molecules give us a sense of calm and well-being.
That’s why I’ve introduced challenges that will foster releases of dopamine, serotonin & oxytocin. Let’s get our well-being back and breakthrough this burnout cycle.
Burnout Challenge: Physical
My first challenge will be a physical one. These aren’t going to be easy challenges for most of us, so check with your doctor and make sure you’re physically capable of attempting them. Setting and trying a physical challenge will improve our physical health and also help us release much-needed Dopamine as we seek to accomplish the goal. Together, this will mitigate any causes of burnout. But the challenge will also hopefully foster community and relationships which can give us that Serotonin and Oxytocin boost.
So here’s my first challenge: Achieve a Pike Stretch – seated or standing (Yes, legs straight nose to the knees folks).
Unless you’re a gymnast, ballerina, or yoga guru, this will be challenging. That’s why it’s called a challenge. Let’s see how far we can get in 30-days. If you’re not flexible, there is no way you will accomplish this in 30 days. (I personally have a long way to go.) If you’re diligent, maybe six months. But let’s see how far we get by marking our progress. Comment in the chat and let me know how you’re doing.