By Cathy Spooner
I remember thinking that after the lockdowns had lifted life would just go back to normal. Like the green light meant the stress and build–up of these years would diminish overnight and it would all be better again. But it hasn’t felt like that at all.
There is a lingering fatigue that is physical and even more so, mental and emotional. We held on for so long, we worried, we became anxious we got angry and overwhelmed. And then we put a smile on and tried to go back to normal almost overnight.
I remember feeling a sense of relief when the end date actually stuck, when we were finally allowed to experience life as we all knew it to be. But that relief was followed with an anxiety I didn’t anticipate. I felt nervous and overwhelmed at the thought of having to go back to routines, to be in large social settings, to be asked to function as mother and have it all together like I apparently used to. I was so far from having it all together… even though I tried.
I’ve experienced severe anxiety over the years and I assumed these feelings of trepidation, or sometimes even complete overwhelm, were just me. Getting overwhelmed by life is something I have been very familiar with over the years and as we made our way back into the world I didn’t hear a lot of conversations that reflected what I was feeling internally.
Everyone was glad to be out and living a somewhat normal existence again. We all threw ourselves back into life and all the stressors that were there before without even batting an eyelid. I’m unsure whether many people felt that anxiety initially like I did, but if they did, I wasn’t seeing or hearing it.
It was business as usual. From the outside. The last year or so we’ve done such a good job of keeping up appearances, something us mothers do so well. But internally it’s taking its toll. We had just been through an experience we had no reference point for. A space in time where we experienced much higher levels of stress and impact on our nervous systems. And then like magic, we acted as though it never happened and went straight back into life.
Over time I saw those appearances start to crack. The conversations around me started to reflect more of what my inner landscape looked like. We were beyond exhausted and it was finally catching up with us all. Women felt as though they were failing again, this pressure to come out the other side and get on with life was starting to wear them down.
It’s no wonder, because nobody was talking about the after effects of lockdowns. No one was discussing what this type of experience does to our nervous systems and how we learn ways to cope, yet only for so long. The constant holding on, waiting for a another date when things would be better again had us living in a sustained stress state for long periods of time. This kind of drawn–out constant stress is what our nervous systems are not necessarily made to do. We will cope, until we just can’t anymore.
The realities of those times during lockdowns when listed on paper are very real problems singularly, let alone as a compounded affect of more than one.
- Sustained periods of stress, anxiety and overwhelm placing pressure on our mental and emotional health
- Having the stability and security of our normal lives be totally shifted
- Experiencing loss of jobs and financial stress
- Relationships with partners were strained and tested
- Relationships with our children experienced much more stress and pressure
- Relationships with loved ones shifted due to distance and isolation
- Combining working from home and home schooling the kids
- The pressure of becoming a teacher overnight, understanding the kids curriculum and managing supporting multiple kids work
- The concern and fear for our wellbeing and welfare
- Being restricted to home environments that were not safe spaces for ourselves or children.
All of these elements created a super storm of pressure on our nervous systems. They made life feel unstable, not safe and lacking all the security we had. Yet we were expected to just act like none of that happened and move on. Let’s not talk about the impacts of this time, let’s move on and forget about it because we are so grateful and happy it’s all over.
But it’s caught up with us now. We are tired, burnt out, we have mental and physical health issues. Coming into Christmas 2022 I didn’t know a single woman in my personal life or clients that wasn’t experiencing fatigue and mental burn out. It wasn’t just surface level either, you could see and feel in us that this felt deeper and bigger than we realised.
Moving forward, how do we recover and make choices that reflect what we actually need, as opposed to what we think we should be doing?
- Being mindful of our commitments and where we feel stretched or if it’s too much
- Getting comfortable with saying no to social, personal or work requests
- Intentionally carving out more time for rest and rejuvenation
- Seeking support from a doctor, counsellor, psychologist or natural health practitioner
- Allowing yourself to need a reset and hit pause.
Moving forward we need to acknowledge the impacts this experience has had on us and to be a lot kinder to ourselves. There is no urgency to go back to how life was, in fact, there are many lessons about life and some of the ways we lived pre Covid that would benefit from change. It takes time to recover and replenish ourselves, but if we don’t pause for long enough we won’t ever feel fully recovered.
Cathy Spooner is a Motherhood and Self–Embodiment Coach and Author who supports women to reconnect with their true self after becoming a mother. She offers 1:1 support, group programs, online courses and her book Conscious Motherhood is available online where all good books are sold. Find out more: www.cathyspooner.com.au Instagram @cathyspooner_author