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Self-Compassion Amidst Change Fatigue
You’ve probably heard of decision fatigue: that tired feeling you get when you just can’t make another decision right now, not even what you want to eat for dinner. When I’m at that point I usually just need someone to put dinner in front of my face and tell me to eat. LOL!
Many of us may be feeling something like decision fatigue right now. I’m calling it change fatigue and it dovetails with decision fatigue all too well.
COVID-19 has changed all of our lives in countless ways. It’s absolutely true that it has impacted some* in our world much more than others, and that’s also not a helpful comparison when trying to feel more self-compassion.
What I want to focus on today is the need for self-compassion amidst the change fatigue that you are likely experiencing.
In tiny ways and big ways and the many ways in between, you have been forced into a reality that is asking you to make more changes in a short period of time than you may have needed to make at any other time in your life. Please sit with that for just a minute. You have needed to make more changes in a shorter period of time than ever before in your life.
Where are You on the Self-Compassion Spectrum?
Some may be doing really well with self-compassion right now and know that all the changes are adding up to things like: being tired more easily, having a lack of focus, feeling more and stronger emotions, needing more sleep and self-care. Knowing this, and having a healthy amount of self-compassion, these individuals allow themselves to not have it perfect, not have it all figured out, and to honor their needs.
Others may be so far away from self-compassion that they forget it's even possible. Perhaps they are saying things along the lines of:
“This isn’t as big of a change for me as it is for _________.”
“Okay, it’s been three weeks now. It’s time to get back to normal.”
“My family is counting on me. I have to be stronger and do better.”
Those who have forgotten their self-compassion — or don’t feel deserving of it right now — are trying to force themselves into moving forward, sucking it up, or saying they can get to that later.
I imagine that many of us move back and forth along that spectrum of self-compassion throughout our days and weeks. There may be instances where we are overly critical of ourselves and what we are able to do right now. On the flip side, perhaps there are times when we allow ourselves to be exactly where we are — without so much judgment, and instead with true love and compassion for ourselves and our current experience.
Awareness of All That Has Changed
I’m not going to ask you to make a list of every thing that has changed in your day-to-day life in the last month. Although, if you think that exercise would help you to feel more compassion for yourself, then by all means, go for it. (I get it! I’m a list person, too.) But for some of you that may just add to the misery.
What I would like to bring awareness to are some of the possible changes that have taken place in your life in an incredibly short period of time. Awareness is an integral part of the process of acceptance. We don’t know how long the changes we have made will need to be in place. Some of them may be permanent; some not. Recognition of and acceptance of the change can allow you to have more compassion for yourself and the fatigue you may be feeling.
So, in no particular order, here are some possible changes that you have experienced in the last few weeks: working in a new location, losing your job, your children being out of school, needing to arrange for childcare, new mealtimes, not being able to visit a sick relative, food insecurity, being unable to see a healthcare provider for much needed pain relief, adapting to doing your work on a computer, being unable to meet with your circle of friends, not being able to go grocery shopping, being unable to attend worship services, not hugging your children or parents, finding ways to exercise at home, choosing new brands of everything because your normal items are out of stock, standing in line 6 feet away from anyone, coworkers being let go, sales decreasing or increasing, having no physical contact with anyone…
And the list goes on.
Every Change Saps Our Energy
It is impossible to count all the ways your life has changed in such a short period of time. Just like every decision uses a bit of our energy, every change also steals a bit of our energy, too. These decisions and changes that you are making now all take away from the energy stores you have. And no matter how “super person” you are, we all have a limited supply of energy.
So, if you find yourself shopping for household supplies and are unable to get your normal brand of toilet paper (or any toilet paper at all) and find yourself in tears, have compassion for yourself. The tears have been coming, and this was their moment to arrive for you. You just found yourself at the point of one too many changes in too short of a period of time.
Questions for reflection:
How can you show yourself more compassion and kindness today?
Are there stories you have been telling yourself that are hurtful and not compassionate? What might an alternate story be when you truly give weight to all that has changed for you?
How might you modeling self-compassion be permission for those around you to do so, as well?
Please know and trust that you are not an oddball if you are crying over something that seems insignificant or lose your patience at something that would normally not even be a blip on your radar. One of the biggest gifts you can give yourself right now is self-compassion. Every little change has impacted you — whether you have been aware of it or not.
*It is absolutely true that the impacts of COVID-19 will be much more dire for those who are in disadvantaged or marginalized groups, the working class and poor, elderly, high-risk health groups, and many others. I hope that at the same time we are showing ourselves a little more self-compassion, we can also continue to be aware of others’ needs and how we might contribute helpfully to the support of those most affected.