COVID-19: Running on Empty
Updated: Sep 30
I have a confession to make!
I feel that I'm running on empty...and I have seldom felt that way.
That isn’t normal, is it?
Well dear reader, nothing is normal right now.
We are half a year into this with no end in sight! The rising tensions have left many of us feeling irritable, short-fused, and ready to detonate over the smallest annoyances. It is for this reason that I read every word of Meg McConahey's article in the Press Democrat article last Sunday titled “Running on Empty.”
I’m compiling some of it here.
Despair seems to be setting in. A Gallup survey in mid-July showed 73% of adults believed the pandemic is getting worse. A Gallup Poll in early August found only 13% of adults are satisfied with the way things are going in the country, the lowest level in nine years. More than half the respondents in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll in July reported that their mental health had suffered because of the pandemic. In a Pew Research Center study in April, 7 in 10 adults said they needed a break from COVID news.
In addition, people who are suffering from COVID fatigue have a diminished capacity for compassion.
My own feelings have become similar to Lynne Brown of Santa Rosa who has been asking herself, “What’s wrong with me?”
“I’ve always wanted to donate to almost every human charity that needs money. Nowadays, terrible thoughts come into my head like, ‘Syrian children — are you kidding? That’s half a world away. I can’t worry about that!’” Brown said. “I’ve been very upset with myself over this change and seeming lack of compassion. I’m still giving regularly to charities, but the wish to help everyone in the world if I could seems to have fled as I feel more powerless.”
In Sonoma County, these feelings might be even more acute because of the accumulation of trauma, said Adrienne Heinz, a Healdsburg psychologist who specializes in post-traumatic stress and mental health in disasters.
“I’ve lived through two fires, a flood and now the pandemic,” she said. “Our little community has endured so much adversity and we keep bouncing back, but it’s getting harder.”
So what can we do?
This is my twenty-first article I have written about coping with the Pandemic, so I’m hesitant to give more "advice." The reason can be summarized in a true story I shared in a story on April 21st.
When Mary and I were very young, she had a very challenging job. She would come home and pour out her heart about:
How difficult a child was...
Or how challenging a parent was...
Or how the principal wasn’t there for her.
But while she was talking, I wasn’t really listening!
I was forming solutions in my mind; so when she finished, I would tell her what they were.
Again, we were very young.
But as I told her my solutions, her eyes became cold. And the longer I advised her, the more cold they became. Finally she would exclaim, “Steve…I don’t need your advice. I KNOW what to do! I need you to listen! What I need is your heart!"
I have had to learn that again since the Pandemic! More specifically, I have been discovering what Scott Peck, the author of The Road Less Traveled, as discovered. “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time."
The Positive Side of Being Isolated at Home
If there is anything we have right now, it is time! And most of us also have people to spend it with. And my dear reader, it is these people who may need us the most...to actively listen to them.
Active listening is a lot of things:
It involves our full attention to what is being said.
Its primary purpose is truly understanding the speaker.
And right now it is a vital skill set.
And if we are not listening actively, we are likely to miss the real message.
And what does active listening do? It heals hurts!
Here's what America's author and historian Studs Terkel said on interviewing:
“The first thing I'd say... is ... ‘Listen'. It's the second thing I'd say too, and the third, and the fourth....And if you do people will talk. They'll always talk. Why? Because no one has ever listened to them before in all their lives. Perhaps they've not ever even listened to themselves."
God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we would listen more and speak less.
On the road to conflict resolution, listening is the superhighway.
There are a LOT of listening techniques which can be found on the Internet! However, by this time you have learned that I love to keep things simple. So think of this.
As you live with your loved ones (although sometimes the feelings of love are simply not there), realize that the best way you can help them get through this is to listen from the heart.
Steven R. Campbell, MSIS
Mr. Campbell is an award-winning author, speaker and mentor to individuals and organizations. Known as “the Brain Whisperer,” he teaches how your mind can be your greatest adversary and, when understood, can be transformed into your greatest friend and ally. He wants to help shift the mindset of Chopsticks Alley readers. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Zoology from San Diego State University and a Masters in Information Systems from the University of San Francisco and has been exploring and teaching the discoveries of cognitive psychology in various universities and colleges for over 25 years.