Has pandemic malaise hit you? It’s Day 83 of COVID-19 isolation for my husband and me. That’s almost 12 weeks without social contacts except for social media and virtual conversations on zoom!
Readers — this post was written before the horror of news videos showing George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. I’m saddened and angered by the long list of black men and women who have unnecessarily died in the US and in Canada. It underlines generations of social injustice, racism, and police brutality. It hits close to home as my husband’s grandmother was born into slavery in Barbados. I know that he has faced racism in his lifetime, professionally and personally.
All of this heightens the grip of malaise that I experience. I’m tired of the pandemic and I’m horrified with the racism I see daily on newscasts.
The ‘State of Emergency’ in Ontario has been extended to June 30 which means several more weeks of boredom and frustration. The double scourge causes me to reach deeply into my stores of resilience. I feel as though I’ve entered a strange holding pattern with no progress and no change.
Definition of Pandemic Malaise
Wikipedia defines malaise as a general feeling of discomfort and uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify. This definition well describes how I think of it. I could not find a specific definition for pandemic malaise on the internet except for a few NewYorker cartoons of people working from home and wearing no pants while on zoom calls!
I know that I suffer a type of malaise — and, I’m labelling it pandemic malaise. The result is an overall feeling that something is not right. I lack a strong sense of direction. Time has flattened. Sometimes this malaise feels like anxiety; sometimes it feels like melancholy; sometimes it’s fatigue.
I don’t have the energy for my usual activities. I can’t focus as well as I need to focus to finish tasks. Often, I am jittery and nervous which is not a feeling that I usually experience.
I can block out the malaise while playing online bridge, watching a good movie or during a FaceTime call with our grandchildren — but it quickly returns.
Combating Pandemic Malaise
To combat my pandemic malaise, I’ve tried to focus on positive emotions and experiences. I purposefully look for opportunities to express hope, kindness, and love instead of dwelling on negatives.
Everything I read on Dr. Google about malaise urges coping techniques that focus on physical health. I stick to my routines of sleep and exercise. Daily walks don’t give as much of a workout as I enjoyed at aquafit classes or strength training classes at the gym. I cook at home so that we can eat nutritious meals. We try to limit snacking to maintain weight. A drink at happy hour and a glass of wine with dinner continues as one of the daily rituals!
The arrival of spring has opened opportunities to lose myself in gardening. Gardening is a diversion for many people this year making procurement of bedding plants and seeds difficult. I was fortunate to get five heirloom tomato plants and some herbs during early ‘senior hours’ at a small garden centre. Gardening gives a spiritual and physical connection with nature. Getting my hands dirty with rich soil is not a challenge when I don’t have to worry about ruining a fancy manicure!
When I feel anxious I turn to my favourite fidget gadget — my knitting needles! Knitting helps to burn off stress! Since the pandemic stay-at-home orders hit, I’ve knitted several head warmers, toques, scarves, and shawls. I choose easy projects that require non-distracting and mindless repetitive stitch patterns. Knitting provides a special bonus — the sense of accomplishment from finishing something.
I’ve also been re-assessing various aspects of my life, especially how I spend my time. Aspects of the pandemic such as a blank calendar http://postworksavvy.com/the-joy-of-slow-living/have reminded me of my lifelong struggles with too many commitments. I plan to better manage the number of calendar entries in the future to optimize the luxury of days with an empty calendar.
Wishful Thinking for an Ending
Many years ago I learned that wishing for a resolution to a difficult situation would not guarantee happiness when it ended. Instead, finding the determination to ‘get through’ brings better results in terms of agency. Wishing for isolation and social distancing to end won’t lift pandemic malaise.
Although I’m experiencing discomfort and unease, I remain hopeful that the imbalance will bring a new perspective. When shaken out of habitual routines, people have the opportunity to look for new possibilities. Just as the plants in my garden are sprouting new leaves every day, I’m counting on new sprouts in my inner life.
Getting through this isolation and stay-at-home order is unpleasant; however, it offers time to look around and take advantage of the imbalance of pandemic malaise. I’m planning a ‘smaller’ lifestyle when this ends — a lifestyle without people or commitments to drag me down. It’s a plan that gives hope and keeps the pandemic malaise controllable.
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