Why Staying Home During COVID Is So Exhausting

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We like to joke that our time has come, that the bravest and most helpful thing we can do for each other during the coronavirus pandemic is to stay home and loaf on the couch. Many of us are finding ourselves crawling up the wall, though — and weirdly drained by the all-day every day forced seclusion. If you've been sleeping more during this outbreak, or your brain is foggy and your limbs are heavy all the time, rest assured that you're not alone: We're fighting against our own nervous systems here.

The term you're looking for is allostatic load. It sounds a little sci-fi, but it's a well-known phenomenon in medicine and psychology. In short, we're overwhelmed with stress right now, from juggling kids to full-time jobs to isolation to well-founded fears about COVID-19 and the government's response to it. When we're stressed out, we go into fight-or-flight mode, except this time, there's nowhere to go and nothing physical to fend off. You're probably also having a hard time exercising, if you rely on doing so outside your living space, and accessing food is its own source of overwhelm.

Being cut off from our social circles is the cherry on top. Your body may not be moving all that much, but your brain is constantly trying to find the enemy that's putting you in danger; failing to do so makes it even more frantic. The best thing we can do about it is let it happen. This new normal is really messed up. Be kind to yourself, and don't expect to behave or react the same as when everything is fine. Get the rest you need, treat your body as well as you can, and start again tomorrow.