Tag Archives: pandemic

Do You Have PPSD*?

(*Post-Pandemic Survival Dysfunction)

Even as daily life seems headed towards recovery, it’s hard to relax. This insightful analysis explains why “burnout” only begins to describe what so many of us have been feeling.

[by Soo Youn, The Washington Post]

Why burnout won’t go away, even as life returns to ‘normal’

For Marcia Howard, the Cheez-Its were a breaking point.

At her son’s first in-person school event this year, she realized she forgot to bring the class snack.

“I just broke down in the car and I started crying,” she said. As a class parent, she was torn up about forgetting the crackers. “It turns out everything has been overwhelming. And there’s no shaking it.”

Howard started a new job at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic working as a creative operations director at a Fortune 500 company.

“I’m a Black woman. Between the pandemic and everything that happened to George Floyd and the summer of protests. . . . I had that first wave of, ‘Oh, gosh, I’m tired. I don’t feel like I can do anything. I stay up all night, looking at my phone and just really can’t focus,’ ” she said.

Then the fall came around, and it became clear many schools wouldn’t fully reopen for in-person learning.

“I’ve never thought about quitting more,” said Howard, who lives in New York City.

She’s been told by her company that she can take time off as she needs, but it’s just not that simple for her, she said. “It is all really wonderful to hear. But trying to prove myself in a corporate environment as the only Black leader, can I?” Howard said.

In February, she says she was told by her therapist that she was on the verge of depression.

“I feel like everyone is starting to think the world is getting back to normal, and I just can’t even bring myself to be hopeful about it,” Howard said.

With vaccinations initiated for half of Americans over 12, and guidance on masking and social distancing easing, the triage stage of the pandemic is lessening for some in the United States. Yet external progress markers can disguise – or even induce – a flurry of conflicting emotional, physical or cognitive states. Like getting sick right after turning in your last final, for some women who bore the brunt of domestic burdens while juggling work pressures for over a year, the breaking point may come with the breathing room.

As the country races toward a “normal” summer, for women like Howard, the picture doesn’t match up with her reality. She’s still struggling through a burnout unlike any other.

“Traditionally, we think of burnout being a state where someone is increasingly overwhelmed with the tasks in their lives, feeling a markedly decreased sense of accomplishment and effectiveness in what they are doing, and feeling like the things they loved to do now feel like just additional tasks. After a time, there can be mental health consequences,” said Maureen Sayres Van Niel, a Boston-based psychiatrist.

The pandemic magnified that condition exponentially.

“We had women with and without children managing situations that had life and death consequences in their daily lives: how to provide food for their families when the deadly virus was omnipresent or they were suddenly without an income, how to care for an elderly mother without physical contact,” she said. “Burnout in the traditional sense doesn’t capture the sense of the past year’s events.”

By March 2021, 1 in 4 Americans adults suffered the loss of a close friend or relative to the coronavirus, according to the KFF coronavirus vaccine Monitor; about 1 in 3 knew someone who died. And for those with family and friends in countries where death tolls are mounting daily, there is little relief.

“By mid-summer many will likely be feeling conflicting emotions such as relief that they are protected against the virus and happiness to see friends and family again. But having these new freedoms allows us to reflect on what we just lived through, what we endured, and what we lost. We will then be able to really feel our burnout, to let it surface,” said Stanford University sociologist Marianne Cooper. “People will need time to process what they have lived through.”

People are also mourning the loss of jobs – as well as routines, health, opportunities and time.

Baltimore-based psychiatrist Kimberly Gordon says burnout isn’t an adequate term. She treats patients from underserved communities and has lived and worked through traumatic events like Hurricane Katrina. She frames the current conversation as one of moral injury, a term referring to “the strong cognitive and emotional response that can occur following events that violate a person’s moral or ethical code.”

“Burnout suggests that the problem resides within the individual, who is in some way deficient. It implies that the individual lacks the resources or resilience to withstand the work environment,” according to a 2019 study published in the journal Federal Practitioner.

That’s impossible, the authors say: “While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those practices, it is absurd to believe that yoga will solve the problems.”

The problem with using the term burnout, Gordon said, is that people equate it with a failure of their own, compounding the issue.

“You take these people who are really passionate and energetic, who want to do a good job, and they lose their motivation,” Gordon said. “Moral injury addresses the systems issues that lead to burnout, and calls for systems to address those issues.”

For some, the moral injury felt like betrayal by employers, the government and neighbors.

Jennifer Casaletto, an emergency physician in North Carolina, remembers one of the lowest points in the middle of the pandemic, a period she refers to as “backstabbing.”

“That was one of the hardest humps to get over, realizing we’re still going to work risking our lives and the lives of our family, and our friends telling us ‘This is completely overhyped.'” She recalled an incident during which a neighbor brought their child to Casaletto’s house to get stitches, then told her they were going on vacation to Mexico and were hoping to get around having to mask on the plane.

While the pandemic has been hard on everyone, women are bearing the physical and mental load of burnout unequally, emerging data shows.

In March, the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index found 30% of women said they felt “overwhelmed or burned out” over the past year, compared with 21% of men.

“The pandemic has also laid bare the ways in which the society and its institutions were not created with the biology of women workers in mind,” Sayres Van Niel said.

Mental health professionals suggest telling employers about what you need to be more productive at work.

“We think of ourselves as passive participants in our workplace but we can actually have an active role in the culture,” Gordon said.

For example, say you can work until 7 p.m. but you need child care. One of Gordon’s patients recently told their manager they were manic depressive, and they were able to come up with a more flexible schedule.

“It’s really important to find workplaces or create workspaces, where people can have courageous conversations,” she said.

She also recommended making small changes in everyday life, like exercise or watching a comedy special. Little daily tweaks can be more effective than a week-long vacation over time, she said.

Howard, the Fortune 500 director, says she tries to work in a daily bath and is focusing on a renewed exercise routine. There’s still plenty for her to be stressed out about: an upcoming minor surgery for her son, family reunions with mixed vaccination statuses and a recent emergency room visit for the family cat.

It can feel like the rush to reopen is happening too fast, she said, putting her at odds with others who are thrilled to take off their masks and return to “normal.”

“I’ve just realized that I don’t have to be there. . . . I don’t emotionally have to get there. I can take my time recovering from the past year and a half. I’m sitting with my feelings and it’s still normal to be unable to focus.”

– – –

This story first appeared in The Washington Post’s The Lily publication.

The Ingrate

This was a first: a Dear John letter from our landscaper, a vendor with whom we’d had a cordial, mutually respectful eight-year relationship.

To paraphrase: “Dear ___ (yes, a form letter), this has been a challenging year so we’ve decided to cut back on the number of clients we service. Unfortunately, you are among them.”

What he doesn’t bother to mention (because it’s a form letter) is that for the past 14 months we have been paying our monthly contractual fee EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVEN’T DONE ANY WORK. Sorry, am I shouting?? In what universe is it ok to accept over $1000 for services not rendered and then not even have the courtesy to acknowledge our loyalty or pick up the phone to work out a solution?

So much for trying to be supportive of a small business. You know that old adage, “No good deed ever goes unpunished”? ARRGGGHHHH.

Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

Life in the Slow Lane

Do you ever get to the point that life has gotten so far away from you that you don’t even know how to begin to make excuses?

That’s how blogging has been for me these past couple of weeks. A combination of factors that I rationally know are out of my control but are nonetheless stressful, plus long lists of specific things that need to be done, overlaid with general anxiety about world issues such as the weather and that damn impeachment trial. (Seriously — how could any sentient being think 45’s behavior was anything but inexcusable?!) But that one, at least, is in the rearview mirror for now.

I know this is a first world problem, so I apologize in advance.

Dear Husband (DH) and I are in the midst of renovating our soon-to-be-one-and-only-house, which is rapidly being gutted. This is all good news, though it means we are renting a townhome/apartment in another location and need to drive out periodically to pick up mail and make sure there are no contractors lying insensate under a random beam.

Meanwhile, we are trying with no success to date to get on a Covid vaccination schedule. We have signed up in both of the counties where our house and rental are and neither has resulted in an appointment since the state has nowhere near enough supplies for everyone who wants to get it.

On the good news front, our Texas house went under contract within a day of our lovely realtor — who is DH’s oldest daughter — notifying a few agents that we were preparing to sell it. Everything would be proceeding smoothly if it weren’t for, oh, deadly ice storms, massive amounts of snow, power outages, etc. We’re thankful not to be living there but worry about friends and family who are coping with this.

Selling the house also means having someone else pack and ship it. Anxiety-producing because a) we have a lot of things we hope to sell or donate and can’t manage this ourselves, and b) we have to relinquish all fantasies of control over the specifics of the process. I’m trying to adopt the attitude that “stuff is just stuff” and if something gets lost or broken we will replace it. But this is not helping me sleep at night… I’m not counting sheep, I’m counting boxes.

I guess, like all of us, I have to put my faith in whatever powers-that-be may exist, know that we will eventually be on the other side of pandemic-related stress, and just hunker down while managing the few small aspects that are within my control.

If anyone has any good tips for patience after this year of endless upheaval, please share!

Demolition derby!

More Good News on Vaccines

Happy Hump Day! This info is very encouraging. Maybe we’re close to turning the corner on this vicious pandemic. How sad it didn’t happen much, much earlier. And if Congress defangs that crazy Marjorie Taylor Greene, it will be an all-around excellent week. Cheers!

[From New York Times]
“For once, we have some good news to talk about: the prospect of another vaccine coming online in the U.S., and a long-awaited indication that at least one vaccine reduces transmission, not just the severity of Covid-19.

Let’s start with the remarkable turnaround of the experimental vaccine from Novavax, a Maryland-based company that has never before brought a vaccine to market.

Last fall, Novavax postponed U.S. clinical trials because of manufacturing delays, jeopardizing the company’s $1.6 billion federal contract and leaving some to wonder whether they should write off the company’s shot entirely. In December, Novavax watched from the sidelines as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were approved.

But things have changed. Novavax announced last week that its vaccine produced robust protection in a large British trial and that it worked — although far less well — in a smaller study in South Africa. The company has also been able to quickly recruit volunteers for its U.S. trials because the two authorized vaccines have been difficult to get, and many see the Novavax trial as their best chance to get vaccinated.

So the company now stands a chance of having trial results this spring, with possible government authorization as early as April. If everything goes well, and that is a big if, Novavax could deliver enough additional doses to vaccinate 55 million Americans by the end of June. That would be on top of the 400 million doses that Moderna and Pfizer are contracted to supply the U.S. by the middle of the year — enough for 200 million people.

It gets better: Novavax has been laying the international groundwork for the eventual production of two billion doses per year — and its vaccine, unlike Moderna and Pfizer’s, can be stored and shipped at normal refrigeration temperatures.

As for protection against transmission, AstraZeneca recently released a report that offered an answer to one of the pandemic’s big questions: Will vaccines prevent people from giving the virus to others?

Researchers from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca have found that not only did their vaccine protect people from serious illness and death but also had the potential to reduce transmission. Swabs taken from trial participants showed a 67 percent reduction in virus being detected among those vaccinated, though scientists warned that the data was preliminary and that masking remained necessary for all.

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is in U.S. trials, and the company has a deal to supply 300 million doses, enough for another 150 million people.”

Good News Monday: Encouraging Data

Worth a look:  This CNN report on data coming out of China.

Researchers analyzed how severe COVID-19 was for those who were diagnosed. The good news: more than 80% experienced only mild symptoms.  Click the link for the full report.

aromatherapy aromatic bath bath towels

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Today’s COVID-19 Practical Tip: Pass It On

This is so lovely I have to share it.

“Pandemic” by Lynn Ungar
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
Shabbat Shalom.