Mood Meter, Burnout, and Languishing

Where are you currently at in this stage of the Pandemic?

[Image IDs in alt text.]

It’s taken me three days and about fifteen attempts to write this short post. I’ve been in a down slump and it’s been incredibly hard to access and tap into any type of creative communication and apparently, I’m not alone. I’ve been reading many articles lately on the collective burnout that many of us are experiencing in this stage of the Pandemic. There’s this one in The Lily on why burnout is hitting us now and this one in the New York Times that described the term ‘languishing’ and why we’re hovering there this year. I also really appreciated Toni Cowan-Brown’s latest post in her Idée Fixe newsletter on creator and consumer fatigue.

I’m not just seeing this in news articles either. My friends in the following careers - therapy, mental health, teaching, childcare, and the medical fields are all telling me that they’re beyond exhausted. What’s so interesting about this burnout is that it’s hitting even harder now, when things are (at least for lots of folks in the USA) more stable than they’ve ever been during this Pandemic’s timeline and that is part of the point - now that things are a little more stable we’ve got some breathing room and the result is a collective mind f*ck as we start to evaluate and analyze just what in the hell happened over this last year.

“I think people have been in shock, powering through and not stopping to think of what has happened. Now I see women beginning to come out of that and starting to grasp the full extent of this pandemic on their lives,” said Boston-based psychiatrist Maureen Sayres Van Niel. [From Soo Youn’s recent article on Burnout in The Lily.]

I’m trying to allow myself some grace in what feels like a total creativity vacuum right now too because things have been hard. A month before the WHO announced the Pandemic last March our daughter became chronically ill and we’re still supporting her through that long term illness. The start of her illness will be forever intertwined with the anxiety of the Pandemic - dual threads of pain and difficulty that began at the same time.

It’s been hard enough to do my day job while pandemic schooling our daughters at home while one daughter was also chronically ill so I shouldn’t really be surprised that lately it’s been almost impossible to channel a creative muse and write a blog, or write an essay, or work on a manuscript proposal. My mind feels like it’s running on empty.

“We’ve heard of consumer fatigue - specifically recently in the wake of the newsletter boom. But I do believe we will start to see increasingly more creator fatigue as well.” [From Toni Cowan-Brown’s recent article on creator and consumer fatigue in Idée Fixe.]

I’m using words like ‘burn out’ and ‘languishing’ but I’m not sure if that’s what really going on. To that end, my therapist has me working on the goal of better naming my emotions. I tend to lump everything under ‘anxiety’ and her task for me recently has been to try to identify trigger thoughts and then > name the emotions they make me feel > so that I can realize the behavior/reaction that result from them. A tool she recommended for better naming emotions is the Mood Meter App. Have you heard of it? (It’s also a great tool for kids to help them identify what they’re feeling.)

It divides moods into four quadrants: high energy unpleasant, high energy pleasant, low energy unpleasant, and low energy pleasant. First you pick one of those four quadrants and then you’re taken to a larger chart to hone in more specifically on the mood.

I do wish I could program in a few more words because the options don’t include ‘overwhelmed’ or ‘burned out’ - two feelings I’ve been feeling a lot lately. The closest I can find on the chart to how I describe an overwhelmed feeling is somewhere between anxious, apprehensive, and frightened - these all fit in the high energy unpleasant quadrant. And then there’s burned out and the closest I can find on the chart to that feeling is a mix of exhausted, spent, and drained - these all sit in the low energy unpleasant quadrant.

One thing I keep thinking about is how much more I used to accomplish pre-Pandemic and how much less I accomplish now - and I don’t think that’s actually a bad thing. The Pandemic made most of us slow down and it’s helped me to realize that I was doing too much before. Part of this feeling of overwhelm is the old work trying to regain a foothold and put me back on a path of doing what was already too much to begin with. There’s an inherent push back from me now that might not actually be burnout so much as the beginnings of acceptance - acceptance that all the things will not get done, at least not on the same timeline that they used to be done in. This reality is so new to me that it’s going to take some getting used to. This is one of the reasons I love our very slow timeline at Dusthaven. It’s an enforced step by step project - something we can fit into our newly slowed down pace of life.

This post is a bit disjointed and that’s okay - it’s a mirror to how everything feels right now and will be a good reminder to look back on years from now and remember this phase of life in the world of Covid19.

How are you doing? Are you feeling overwhelmed or burned out too? You’re not alone if so. Hang in there.

Much love,