Stalled on the Freeway of Life?

Foggy brain? Tired all the time? Coming out of the past year reminds me of driving my MGB Roadster. It was British racing green, had shiny spoke wheels, with peculiarities typical of an MG. One particular trait: when it was warmed up, it would cut out for no reason. I would be flying down the freeway, breeze in my hair, when the engine would suddenly shut off.

When this first happened, I coasted to the side of the road, and did what any sane motorist would do. I lifted the hood and peered inside. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, so after a while I put the hood down and started the car. Vavoom! The car revved up and off we went. It was such a regular happening that friends, who would stop by before, would drive by and wave. It was just Joan, waiting for her car to start up again.

The startup on the other side of the pandemic is much the same. You’re riding down the freeway of life. When suddenly? A yawn. Heavy eyelids. Deep sighs. You want to curl up on a sofa for a moment or two. (I have become quite competent with a sitting up nap.) Balancing your bank statement? Getting the oil changed? Meh. Maybe tomorrow.

This kind of mental fog is real and can have a few different causes. But the trauma of the past year has taken a toll. COVID stress creates deep prolonged anxiety. Result? Restless, interrupted sleep patterns. This distress also promotes low grade inflammation, causing fatigue. There seems to be no end in sight.

Rather than stopping like my little Roadster on the side of the road, here are a few tips to gently rev your engine:

  • Remember the usual things that help relieve stress. Exercise, a healthy diet, going outdoors, and limiting news consumption can recharge you. If these diversions don’t help? Opt for a change of scenery. A Sunday drive, a trip to a local attraction, a walk in another town. All can help stimulate the mind and begin to move those wheels.
  • Ask yourself: what is the smallest possible step you could take to move toward that goal? Name that step. Then move. One step can lead into two. Two into four. And you’re on a roll.
  • Give yourself some uninterrupted time. Tiny distractions seem to be everywhere. A dish that needs to be washed. A load of laundry. Bills to be paid. But now is the time to pencil yourself in to your to-do list. Set aside time to do what you treasure. Kayaking. Swimming. Walking. Reading. Learning to focus again is the key.
  • Be kind to yourself. Acceptance and self-compassion go a long way in dispelling mental fog. Gift yourself with a little bit of grace, and feel at peace again.
  • Know there will be an end. Everything this in life has a beginning and an end. This too will pass.

My MGB? The starter was mounted on the engine block. It would get too warm and shut off. Once moved to the fender? No problem! After a little while, with a little adjustment, you too will be flying down the freeway of life. Live unstuck.

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