Today was our first epic school blowout. I came head to head with one of our young ones, and it was a several-hour, no-one-is-relenting, knockdown battle. While I never outright screamed, I can admit my voice level was significantly louder and firmer. And no spankings were involved, but the threat of being in their room for the rest of the day, with meals brought up to them, was issued. At the end of a five-minute timer, this child decided to try and change their attitude and finished out the last 30 minutes (Seriously? There is so little left in their day!) in a perfect attitude. They have spent the rest of today frolicking cheerfully about the house.
I, on the other hand, feel completely exhausted and drained. I could curl up and sleep the rest of the day away and I just may do it … that, or eat a pint of ice cream to comfort myself.
I can’t be the only one, right? The only one who is limping past the finish line and serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner. While there were a plethora of those days when there were babies in the house, I felt they were more justified back then: “You only got three hours of sleep last night, Kristin. PB&J is downright gourmet.” I don’t have that excuse anymore, yet I feel just as tired.
Well, as I do with most things, I Googled it, and what I found is that emotions are exhausting. Stress is exhausting. Constant stress and high-intensity emotions (hi, 2020)? Well, that can lead to emotional exhaustion.
Now, I have heard of emotional exhaustion before, but I have never fully dived into what it actually means. I would toss it around, but it did not seem like a “real” thing. Just something people said. Turns out, it’s real.
According to Healthline, “Emotional exhaustion is a state of feeling emotionally worn out and drained as a result of accumulated stress from your personal or work lives, or a combination of both. Emotional exhaustion is one of the signs of burnout."
Now, did this one fight lead to emotional exhaustion? Probably not. Did quarantine, COVID, politics, the sudden switch to homeschooling and parenting lead to it? Probably.
I think it is safe to say that we have all been under an unusual amount of stress this past year, and when you add to it all the remaining uncertainty, it looks to me like we may all be at risk for emotional exhaustion. So, what do we do to fight it?
Well, there are a few things you can do. First, reduce stress. Being that it is 2020, I can see how that may be difficult, but there are things we can do. If it is politics that are ramping you up, watch or read less news, or make a deal with yourself to only check it once a day. If parenting is stressing you out, maybe make the same rule: one check per day. I find my worst parenting guilt comes when I compare myself to others, and social media is a breeding ground for that. Homeschooling freaking you out? Fall break! You get to call the shots. Now, these are specific to me, but you see how there are little things you can do to lessen your triggers.
Next, work on mindfulness: “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” But how do we do that, and who has the time? Well, you are in luck, because I found a five-minute breathing meditation that will help you practice mindfulness. While we may not have a lot of extra time, I know we can find five minutes. Even if you do it in the bathroom with your door locked (both bedroom and bathroom, so there are no interruptions and requests for water). Science has shown that mindfulness decreases stress, increases happiness and has a positive impact on your relationships.
Finally, connect with others. When we are emotionally exhausted, it is very common to socially disconnect from others. Make a point to reach out for a phone call, a coffee date or a Zoom chat with a friend or loved one. Not only are you able to feel less alone, but you are also squeezing in a bit of self-care.
I think we all just need to give ourselves a hug and permission to have a few PB&J dinners this year. We have been through a lot, and it is totally OK if we are tired. Go easy on yourself today, and take a moment and appreciate how much you have done and how well (yes, well) you have done it.