Surge capacity running on empty as COVID-19 pandemic continues

There are things we can do to cope with the challenges caused by a pandemic that has not yet run its course. | Reuters/Agustin Marcarian photo

Q: I’ve reached my limit with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just when we think that we are getting on top of it, we seem to hit another variant and the next thing we know we are back at the bottom of the barrel, yet again, and expected to somehow bounce back through this infection with the same enthusiasm we had two years ago.

I’m tired and I think that everyone else is too. What can we do?

A: You are right. A great many of your friends and neighbours are tired of the pandemic. We have exhausted what psychologists call our “surge capacity.”

Let me explain. Each of us has within our psychological make-up something called surge capacity to help us make our way through difficult crises in our lives. Surge capacity is the stored-up energy, that will almost impulsively spring into action and see us through our crises. It is surge capacity that flips an innocent bystander off the edge of the pier and into the water to rescue a drowning child. It is surge capacity that fights back when a person is being assaulted, perhaps sexually abused. Sometimes it is even strong enough to fight off the intrusion.

Most of us do not know that we have surge capacity.

The heroic firefighter who rescued the elderly in a burning nursing home will tell you that he or she did not know that he or she had that much strength. Like everything else surge capacity is different, one person to another. Some people have more, some have less. But all of us have some, and once we have exhausted our supply of it, no matter how much we had in the first place, it is difficult to continue the fight.

In fact, it was that surge capacity, strongly or weakly, that came through when COVID-19 first hit. Surge capacity was everywhere, wearing masks, social distancing, getting vaccinated and for just a very small minority, staging protests.

But surge capacity cannot last. In fact it didn’t.

Most of us, as you have said, are really tired. We need to replace surge capacity. If you think of surge capacity as an emotion, as something more impulsively driven, then it is clear what we need to do.

We need to think things out a little more. We need to plan. We cannot just go to Grandma’s funeral, we have to ensure that the chapel is safe for everyone who attends.

We might need to upgrade our electronic hardware in that spare bedroom so that we can continue to work at home. Maybe we should not have bought ourselves a pet dog, but we did and now we have to make sure that it is properly fed, trained and loved

We can almost bet that days will come here and there when the children are home from school and we need to plan for them, to feed them despite a stifling text message from our supervisor. The kids need structures and routines and so do we. Those do not happen impulsively. You have to figure it out.

This is demanding. You might get a wee bit tired when you are trying to figure out how your family is going to deal both with COVID and your life thereafter.

Don’t despair. Time-outs, afternoon naps and quiet times can ensure that just about any family will have the strength it needs to build itself a structure to figure out its place in a new world that is both exciting and challenging.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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