It’s been 18-19 months since the world turned upside down due to the pandemic. In some cases, many issues were brought to the surface (e.g., overworked moms, broken work systems, outdated government policies).
Many people lost their jobs while others quit their jobs or made huge changes in their careers (now known as ‘The Great Recognition’.)
Many people’s lives were lost, others missed out on important milestones, and some people had an opportunity to rekindle with their immediate families or significant others while being forced into quarantine.
Others ended up underworked, left with too much time on their hands while others felt burned out and overworked, taking on more responsibility at home.
Though we’ve all have gone through different experiences, there’s no doubt we have all undergone a lot of change — all at different extremes.
For highly sensitive people (HSPs), not only do we have a great sense of self-awareness, but we are also very much in tuned to what’s going on around us — not just physically but also universally. When the world is transforming, we feel it deeply.
Feeling is one thing, but understanding how we feel is another.
Throughout the 18 months or so, I’ve been following a few of my favorite thinkers, such as social psychologists and authors, which have provide great insight into how people are commonly feeling.
How are reacting to these changes while also dealing with an ongoing pandemic? What is it doing to our minds?
What I have found is that there have been three major “universal experiences” that we’ve all been feeling — with highly sensitive people feeling it much deeper than others.
Below I share these emotional concepts that psychologists have been bringing to light that can help you make sense of how you’re feeling and why.
Feeling depleted? ‘Surge Capacity’
“Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters.
But natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely.”
– Tara Haelle, science journalist
As human beings, we have this innate and extraordinary ability to respond to a crisis.
Imagine how communities come together when there is a natural crisis. Once the storm passes, people rush in to support and they start the rebuild phase as soon as possible.
Surge capacity is another way to explain a phenomenon in which our rational brain kicks into gear and automatically trumps our emotional brain. It’s caused by a sudden rush of adrenaline in order to survive.
But after a while, our adrenaline runs out. What happens next? We become depleted.
As the pandemic continues, it’s become clear that there is no pre-determined “rebuilding phase.” The new normal, if you will, is indefinite uncertainty. What do we do next? It’s really hard to say.
Feeling stagnate, blah, and bored? ‘Languishing’
“Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.”
– Adam Grant, American psychologist and author
What Adam Grant considers “the neglected middle child of mental health,” is the strong sense of languishing. It’s not depression, but rather a sense of stagnation and emptiness.
I sure felt it. About six months after I moved out of state and continued building a new business, I started to feel depressed.
The strange thing was I also felt grateful. I had my health, my fiancé and my dog, and I now lived close to a beach. But there was so much missing: time with family and friends, and even small encounters with everyday people.
It weighed on me heavily, and it caused a slow-down in business development. I took this time to sit with the “blah” feeling. It wasn’t comfortable, but it was much needed.
When you’re languishing, you’re just going through the motions day-to-day, not really feeling much at all. In a sense, we’re still in survival mode, but we’ve depleted our energy to really forge ahead, so instead we continue to coast.
With this emotion, we feel as if there’s no sense of control. But Adam Grant has a few tips, one of them being the art of mastering.
In a recent TedTalk, Adam Grant tells a personal story about how he turned to playing video games with his family to build a sense of mastery.
For me, I picked up sewing as a brand new skill. I put a lot of time into learning how to do overstitches, finished seams, and cutting out PDF sewing patterns. It helped me get through a time period in which I was feeling incredible uninspired.
What mastery helps to do is to conjure a sense of “flow,” which can help build yourself up towards the feeling of “flourishing.”
If you’re feeling a sense of languishing, it might be time to pick up a new skill or any type of activity that requires goal setting and the opportunity to advance.
[Recommended Reading: There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing]
Feeling anxious? ‘Pandemic Flux Syndrome’
Around 4th of July, many people had a sudden rush of excitement and optimism. They thought they had seen a light at the end of the tunnel. Are we about to enter normalcy again? The answer was simply no.
As friends and family started making plans to gather for the holiday, the delta variant reared its ugly head, causing many people to feel sad or very anxious, which also led to the strong need to take control; in many cases this meant making a dramatic change.
Whether it’s moving from the city to the farm to raise alpacas (I’d be lying if this didn’t cross my mind once or twice), or taking on a new career or going back to school.
The want for something new was caused by the need to break-free of the anxiety and start to take our life into our own hands by making the most of our situations.
Amy Cuddy and author JillEllyn Riley coined the term “pandemic flux syndrome” to make sense of this collective phenomenon.
“But now, many people are experiencing a starkly different set of feelings — blunted emotions, spikes in anxiety and depression, and a desire to drastically change something about their lives.
If this sounds familiar, you might be one of the many people experiencing what we’ve begun to refer to as “pandemic flux syndrome.” It’s admittedly not a clinical term, but it seems to capture something about the moment we’re living through.”
– Amy Cuddy (Social psychologist and author) & JillEllyn Riley (author)
[Recommended Reading: Why this stage of the pandemic makes us so anxious]
[Recommended Podcast Episode: Brene with Amy Cuddy]
If you’re going through tremendous change that is causing hard emotions to surface, I can help! I offer 1:1 coaching for HSPs. Schedule a free chemistry call.