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How to Manage When You’re Starting to Hit the Pandemic Wall

It’s now officially over one year since the beginning of the pandemic that swept the world in the spring of 2020. While it may have seemed novel at first to bake bread, build a new garden bed, and stay home a bit more with our families, the length of this season has certainly been a marathon and not a sprint.  

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Many people are getting tired of all the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve hit the proverbial wall that many a marathon runner can explain. We’ve tapped out our resources and are relying on backup power, which just isn’t cutting it. 

How can we continue to push on? How can we move past this rough patch and celebrate at the finish line?  

No matter what it was that caused you to “hit the pandemic wall” (one more day of leggings and working from the couch, perhaps), there are several actions we can all take to give us the boost we need to get through the last leg of this race.

As any marathoner will tell you, hitting the wall comes well after the halfway point in the race. We’re much closer to the end than the beginning! 

Check Your Pandemic History and Stats 

A quick Google search on “historic pandemics” will show you some patterns that look quite similar to our 2020 story. The good news is that pandemics always end.

According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, it takes 16-20 months for a pandemic to run its course. It also takes that long for the medical community to understand how to treat or prevent the disease and for “normal” to be well on its way back.

Every once in a while, remind yourself that we’re close to the end of this pandemic. We may have some kinks to still work out, but hitting the wall could also be seen as “getting over the hump.” And if history can teach us anything, pandemics always end.

Get Out of a Lockdown Mindset 

While there are certainly COVID-19 restrictions still in place and we’re getting targeted ads for “mask-ne” products, very few places (if any) in the United States are truly in a lockdown. When we use terms such as “lockdown,” that adds additional negative connotations to the current situation.

There are many options for us to get out and safely interact with other humans and society. Of course, everyone needs to do what feels comfortable to them, but having a few restrictions is not a lockdown.  

Find somewhere that feels comfortable to you and do something you used to love. For me, this means finding a coffee shop where I can go work for a few hours. Everyone’s approach will be different, but there are quite a few options for socially distanced “normal” activities in your community. 

Get Outside and Enjoy the Weather

Whenever possible find a pretty place in nature (it’s spring!) and get some sunshine. There are positive psychological benefits to being in nature. In addition, getting outside usually means being more physical active than watching the 7th season of that show on Netflix.  

Be sure to schedule a nature date at a pretty location and soak up the sun. For me, I prefer to take weekly hikes with my dog, Waylon.

Limit Information Overload 

Limiting your exposure to negative information is critical in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Whether you get information from traditional news sources, social media or podcasts, too much information is not a good thing.

Of course, education is important and extremely valuable. However, most of the news inundating your mind from these sources is tailored to make you gasp.

If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be popular, and if it’s not popular, it doesn’t make money. Limit your exposure to different information outlets and take a deep breath. 

Determine what news sources you want to read/listen to, and schedule time in your day to do so. Once your allotted time is up, you’re done for the day.

I have a few podcasts I like to listen to. I will listen on my evening walk with Waylon (not the morning walk) and that’s it — no more information overload for the day.

Others like to schedule one hour on Monday mornings to check their favorite news source. Whatever information source you use, set it into your schedule and don’t revert to scrolling webpages when boredom sets in. 

Embrace Some Solitude

When we can enjoy our own company, being alone is a lot more fun. As previously discussed, we are consistently inundated with information and stimuli. Our brains are not wired to thrive in this environment.

With space and solitude, however, our brains become calmer and less anxious. We actually think about interesting things instead of what so-and-so said about President X on their Facebook feed.

It’s quite easy to plan solitude these days. Eliminate all inputs, and have some actual quiet time.

Plan a time to be distraction-free and just think about whatever comes to mind. My daily solitude occurs during my morning walks with Waylon. I have no phone, no music and no podcast during this time.

We walk, I take the time to think and I breathe in the morning air. I consider my daily schedule and remind myself of my tasks. Sometimes my thoughts get deeper, and I think about my core values and how I will live by them that day. It’s a lovely way to start the day.

Eat a Vegetable or Fruit 

I’ll be the last person to suggest a restrictive diet. Dieting is the worst, and this way of thinking comes from an exercise physiologist who loves nutrition.

Here’s the deal: you don’t need to stop baking your bread or toss out your beloved sourdough starter. It’s just time to add in something seasonal.

I’m currently stocked with strawberries and they are delicious! If I can’t get through them all, they’ll be frozen for future smoothies. 

Find some seasonal produce to try. Have them for snacks or add them to dinner. Adding in nutrients is a great way to improve your overall nutrition profile without restricting anything at all.

Start Journaling

Now is a nice time to start journaling. I don’t mean you have to list 20 things you’re grateful for each day and create three pages of feelings.

Journaling can be as simple as writing down a few sentences when you think of something positive or frustrating. Getting your thoughts on paper can help you see them objectively and process them more quickly.

I have a journal that’s devoted to wellness in general. I note several of the things we discussed above and track how often I do them. Right now, I’m tracking daily steps, water intake and a few other metrics.

Remember that journaling can look however you need it to look. I enjoy getting a blank journal and using it as I want versus following some pre-designed perfect plan that I don’t want to do each day.  

Consider journaling how you feel about the pandemic right now. What are some thoughts you have? Are they true? If not, call yourself out.

Can you do anything to improve your situation? Make a plan and follow it through. There’s nothing like keeping promises to yourself to boost your self-confidence and spur motivation.

How to Treat Yourself Well and Avoid the Pandemic Wall

Regardless of our personal circumstances, we can do our best to treat ourselves well and avoid hitting the pandemic wall. Treating yourself well will be different for everyone, but consider asking yourself these questions:

  • How can I honor my body today?
  • How can I honor my wellness?
  • What’s my next best decision?

Cheers to 2021 and making the best out of the last leg of this race. Maybe we’ll get participation medals. 

Dr. Herrenbruck is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sports & Health Sciences. She earned her Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Kentucky and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Her research interests focus on skeletal muscle physiology, and she has a passion for discussing the convergence of science and healthy living.

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