Why are we all so bloody tired?!
Now nearing the end of the third week of a UK-wide lockdown, we're not rushing from pillar to post like we normally are (and rightly so #stayathome). But we're totally wiped out, struggling to crawl out of bed in the morning and feeling lethargic and just eurgh.
Stop beating yourself up. It turns out there's a combination of factors causing this meh-ness.
First off, we're in a f&*king global pandemic! Stating the obvious but our poor brains have got a lot to deal with. Home schooling, caring for elderly/vulnerable parents, school holidays with no respite of even a walk to the park, lack of job security, oh and risk of death. Plus the huge additional burden our key workers have on their shoulders.
Whatever our situation and responsibilities are right now, our bodies' fight-or-flight response is turned on 24/7. It's our state of 'high alert' we inherited from our cavemen ancestors enabling them to sense danger from sabre-toothed tigers and the like.
When we get stuck in this state for a prolonged period of time, our brains are in overdrive and our bodies are trying desperately hard to pump adrenaline around the body, 'prepping' us to handle danger our brains have sensed is coming. Both are exhausted.
And this anxiety is impacting our sleep, too. Unsurprisingly, when we're anxious, we don't go into a deep, good-quality sleep. Add to that the existential dread and complete lack of routine and it's no surprise disrupted sleep or insomnia has reared its ugly head. And so the vicious circle continues. As well as increasing the amount of stress hormones our brain produces (see above), lack of decent kip makes us grouchy, irritable, dazed and confused the next day.
Furthermore, inactivity makes us tired. The body craves movement. If you're sitting or lying still for long periods of time, the body isn't as good as taking in oxygen and getting it to the blood, which sends your energy levels crashing. Hence the constant sluggishness. The less you do, the crapper you feel.
Lack of sunlight... hours and hours of screen time... drip feeds of bad news - it's a plethora of energy-sapping shitness.
But there's good news! a) it's not you, it's science. It is not you being lazy... b) you're definitely not alone... and c) there are some simple steps you can take to help you start feeling better.
How to combat lockdown lethargy
1. Move your body. Whether it's Joe Wicks' PE class, laps around the garden, an online yoga class (shameful plug, soz) or pounding the local streets/fields, exercise helps alleviate the stress hormones that are coursing through our bodies. Boost those serotonin levels. Get a hit of Vitamin D while you're at it, if possible.
2. Find some structure and plan your day. Each day do some sort of 'work', whether that's your job, cleaning the house (pick a room a day to avoid a feeling of overwhelm), do something intellectual like a crossword or a jigsaw, and something social, like connecting with loved ones through the power of Zoom.
3. Cut back on the booze. Sorry, I know none of us want to hear this, but the surge in alcohol intake is doing us no favours. It damages our sleep, it makes us miserable and/or beer-feary the following day, it means we're less likely to be motivated to do, well, anything. Aim to have 3-4 days a week sans drink. You'll notice the difference.
4. Drink more water. Dehydration makes us feel crap and it's easy to get out of the habit of regular sips of water when we're not in our usual routine.
5. Working from home? Create an at-home stand up desk. Sitting down all day plays havoc with my mojo and my back so I have a pile of furniture catalogues on top of my kitchen work surface.
6. Slash the screen time. You don't need to get every single piece of breaking news immediately. Nor do you need to keep on top of the gazillions of whatsapp messages flying around all day every day as our loved ones try to navigate lock down/home schooling/home working/all of the above. Facebook has reported a 70% engagement increase since lockdown began. Turn off your notifications, set yourself specific times you allow yourself to check for updates, lock your phone away for god's sake. You'll be wildly more productive and notably less bummed out.
7. Find stillness and calm. The positive impact meditation can have is beyond words. You don't need to sit cross-legged to 'meditate' (although that is great)... just send your attention to your breath. Observe your breath coming in and out of your body. You can do this for 30 seconds or 30 minutes. It works.
8. Finally, take the pressure of yourself. This is a horribly frightening, draining time for all of us. Recognise that stress and anxiety affect you physically. Listen to your body. Give yourself a break. And look after yourself.
Stay safe, stay sane.