People seem so fragile since the start of the pandemic. How do we adjust?

MH /Boston

You’re right. Almost everyone struggles with some combination of grief, stress, burnout, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, lack of sleep, and/or sheer mental overload. And one of the less than ideal aspects of the human brain is that all of these conditions have both absent-mindedness and irritability as symptoms. And distraction and irritability are a terrible combination, for obvious reasons.

It will help a bit to just keep this in mind, to recognize what is happening as a physical symptom. We spent over two years absorbing ever-changing information, learning new habits and routines. Inflation, reduced hours and understaffing in companies, MBTA issues – all of this means people have to do more planning, more workarounds, to get the same jobs done. We are exhausted and sometimes we expect more from our brains than we expect from machines. Machines need downtime, maintenance, repairs and upgrades, fuel, rest.

Give yourself this. All the basics: Drink water, eat vegetables, focus on your breathing, move your body. These are the most important items on your daily to-do list. And speaking of to-do lists, can yours be simplified? Is it possible to do less? Is it possible to do things in a more informal, less perfectionist way than before? Are there any tasks you can outsource? What life hacks and conveniences make a real difference to the smoothness of your life? Let you have them.

And indulge in all the silly little pleasures and comforts that make you feel good. Sing in the car? Ax throwing? Watching Goonies for the 54th time? Writing parody song lyrics? Play Lily’s Garden (how I hate that creepy weed!)? Do it, don’t worry if it’s cool or adult or Instagram worthy. It’s not April 2020 anymore. Repetitive activities like playing phone games and rewatching shows or movies alleviate anxiety and provide helpful downtime for the brain to process, you know, everything. More creative or physically active forms of pleasure allow you to express and express your feelings.

Be sweet and gentle with yourself and then talk about those things. One of the best ways to help each other is to help yourself and talk about how, as it makes people feel less alone and gives them permission to relax. I’ll start: I only eat breakfast because a virtual finch on my phone can wander off if I do. (His name is Noodle.) Do I feel stupid? Yes. Do I feel dizzy and grumpy at 2 p.m.? Not anymore! Thank you, Noodle!


Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a doctorate in psychology.

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