December 6, 2021
My morning alarm goes off and… I just can’t. I literally can’t. After the third snooze, my husband comes over and pulls me out of bed, LITERALLY, reminding me that I just need to put my feet on the ground. I move to the living room to sip on some warm water to help wake up… I look around… My house is a mess. Our tree is up, finally, but I still have some regular décor to put away. I still have some Christmas shopping that needs done, plus all the wrapping. I feel as if I should have accomplished more during the weekend and start berating myself for being lazy.
It's an infusion day, so after letting Ellie sleep in a bit more than normal, I wake her for her normal morning routine and immediately it’s a fight. She’s telling me she doesn’t want to go to treatment and would rather go to school. Mind you, this is after a week of whining about not wanting to go to school each morning last week. I find myself confused and frustrated. She knows treatment is non-negotiable and hasn’t fought going in a long time- if ever- she’s treated like royalty at the infusion clinic by all the nurses.
I received a call from a good friend. She shares that she has no idea what to do with her kiddos… it’s been a fight to get them to want to go to school; she’s confused and frustrated and was looking for tips. I share my own struggles and provide support with the fact that she’s not alone, even if I didn’t have any tips on how to help in the moment.
I start my workday and get a message from an employee. It’s an apology for the amount of work they weren’t able to accomplish the week prior and they assure me that they’ll be more productive. There is no need for this individual to apologize. I find myself contemplating the best way to respond… I look around my office and see the Five Reiki Principles I have framed. I move the frame to the center of my desk, realizing that I need this visual reminder at all times right now.
Ya’ll…. I know I am not alone. My daughter isn’t alone. My employees aren’t alone. As moms, we aren’t alone.
There have been consistent themes I’ve observed in my Reiki sessions since our opening. I am seeing, and personally experiencing, BURNOUT. And Please, dear God I pray… PLEASE don’t make me have to decide what’s for dinner another night.
Let's discuss burnout, pandemic burnout, and how Reiki can be a support.
I think most of us would all agree that we, as American adults, have been flirting with symptoms of burnout well before the pandemic. Now, almost 2 years into the COVID-19 pandemic, survey after survey outlines the effects of ongoing pandemic stress.
The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), developed by Christina Maslach and colleagues at the University of San Francisco in the 1970’s outlines the following as the main symptoms of burnout:
Exhaustion. Emotional energy levels are extremely low.
Depersonalization. Characterized by cynicism and “compassion fatigue.”
Lack of efficacy. Seeds of doubt are sewn about the meaning and quality of ones work, resulting in reduced care and effort directed to the work.
Physical symptoms of burnout:
Feeling tired and drained most of the time
Frequent headaches or muscle pain
Change in appetite and sleep habits
Emotional symptoms of burnout:
Sense of failure and self-doubt
Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated
Feeling detached and alone in the world
Loss of motivation
Increasingly cynical and negative attitude
Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment
Behavioral symptoms of burnout:
Withdrawing from responsibilities
Isolating oneself from others
Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
Taking out one's frustrations on others
Pre-pandemic, burnout symptoms were considered to be only related to work-related stress. Post-pandemic, there’s a growing argument that burnout symptoms can show up in and be a result of stress from all areas of life.
A quick google search of ‘Pandemic Burnout’ brings up article after article discussing how the ongoing stress of the pandemic is impacting all facets of life with tips/suggestions on how to manage these symptoms as a result. At the beginning of the pandemic, our short-term survival skills kicked in. Fear kept us motivated. But over time, fear subsides and frustration grows. Exhaustion — and complacency — set in.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines pandemic fatigue as being “demotivated” and exhausted with the demands of life during the COVID crisis. The WHO warns that this fatigue could ultimately lead to a longer, more devastating pandemic.
In an article titled, COVID Fatigue: How to Cope with Pandemic Burnout, It notes that while burnout symptoms can vary from one person to the next, there are some common Pandemic Burnout symptoms.
Feeling cynical and emotionally exhausted.
Two of the most common burnout symptoms are feeling emotionally drained and cynical of the world around you. Researchers have observed these symptoms in people who have worked in demanding environments during the pandemic.
Being less effective on the job.
We’ve run out of personal resources resulting in self-doubt and over time, not being able to pay attention to work tasks. Researchers have observed individuals with pandemic-related burnout feeling like a failure at work.
Having a deep sense of anxiety about the future.
Anxiety related to your own future or the future of your community and the wider world. Researchers believe that the anxiety comes from the fact that we can’t predict when the pandemic will end.
Being less willing to comply with health guidelines.
Growing tired of the inconvenient public safety measures is natural, but experts say it could prolong the pandemic even further.
Another source shares the term, Decision fatigue – For many, our current reality encompasses a daily web of risk assessment, upended routines, and endless news about the state of COVID-19 in the world, America and our individual communities. In an article published by the American Psychological Association , it is reported that nearly one-third of adults surveyed (32%) said sometimes they are so stressed about the coronavirus pandemic that they struggle to make basic decisions, such as what to wear or what to eat. Millennials (48%) were particularly likely to struggle with this when compared with other groups (Gen Z adults: 37%, Gen Xers: 32%, Boomers: 14%, older adults: 3%). The article further discusses how decision-making fatigue is having a disproportionate impact on parents, given changes to work, school, and everyday routines during the pandemic. The data further demonstrates the racial and ethnic disparities in relation to the impact on the pandemic.
Because I am still young and hip (never mind what my daughter says), I have heard of “FOMO,” Fear Of Missing Out. Buuuttt… FONO? This one is new.
FONO (Fear of normal) - This can range from a continued fear of infection as offices, schools, and public locations open up, to being stressed about how to resume socialization with those outside your household. In a recent Today Show post, psychologist Deborah Serani shared, “This is a global example of what’s called re-entry after trauma.”
With all of this said, now what? What can we do to support ourselves and others through this high rate of Pandemic Burnout??
There are many books and articles across the internet that provide suggestions on how to manage overall stress. For pandemic stress, Lucy McBride, a practicing internist in Washington, D.C., suggests the following in an article for the Atlantic:
Acknowledge the trauma that the pandemic has created for us collectively and individually. Recognize that all these symptoms are to be expected and the accumulated stress will have physical manifestations. Normalizing this attitude can help remove the shame and self-stigma of feeling unwell.
Recognize that there is reason for optimism. Progress is progress. Recalibrating lingering fears will prevent further mental exhaustion.
Create strategies that better meet our biological needs. To be successful in doing this while dealing with burnout- we must shift our mindset to an internal locus of control- that is, taking charge of our own lives again. Reassessing and simplifying our home life, work, and relationships can be a good place to start.
How Can Reiki Help?
Practicing and/or receiving Reiki stimulates our parasympathetic nerves which help the body relax. In the book, Reiki in Clinical Practice: A Scientific-Based guide, Author Ann Baldwin discusses objective data from a number of scientific studies that looked at Reiki’s ability to reduce emotional stress. While the participant numbers of these studies were low and participant population varied, the results were consistent. All of the responses to Reiki within the experiments reflected improved stimulation of the parasympathetic “rest and digest” component of the ANS, and reduced activity of the sympathetic fight/flight/freeze component.
The Reiki Principles
Just for today, I will let go of anger.
Just for today, I will not worry.
Just for today, I will give thanks for my many blessings.
Just for today, I will do my work honestly.
Just for today, I will be kind to my neighbor and every living thing.
Following these 5 principles without practicing/receiving Reiki will help with the healing process.
We know that emotions such as worry and anger activate our Fight/Flight/Freeze response. This leads to a release of adrenaline into the bloodstream as well as stimulation of the sympathetic nerves that innervate all body organs. These responses cause heart rate and cardiac contractility to increase, so that blood circulation is enhanced and more oxygen and nutrients are provided to the heart, muscles and brain. In addition, the stress hormone – cortisol – is released. This is great for the short term. However, chronically high concentrations of cortisol leads to a sustained increase of glucose in the bloodstream and a reduced release of insulin, which can cause Type 2 Diabetes. Elevated stimulation of sympathetic nerves (fight/flight/freeze response) for prolonged periods increases the workload of the heart and is associated with heart disease.
Practicing the principles, “Just for today I will not worry/anger,” doesn’t mean one should never experience these emotions. It’s simply a practice so that when the emotions do arise, one is not overwhelmed by them, but can experience them and then let them pass. Practicing and/or receiving Reiki enables this process, partly because Reiki stimulates the parasympathetic nerves which help the body relax.
The principles, “Just for today I give thanks for my many blessings/I will be kind to myself and every other living thing,” also aid with managing stress because they help one to focus on the positive aspects of life. Scientific studies show that when people experienced positive emotions like joy, contentment and love, they saw more possibilities in their lives, which aids in overall wellbeing.
The principle, “Just for today I will do my work honestly,” can be interpreted as taking responsibility for one's life and for the attainment of one's goals and ambitions. The realization that you have control over how you can respond to outside events and personal interactions is an empowering experience. There is nothing more debilitating than blaming others, complaining, making excuses, and waiting for others to act on one's behalf.
Write The Reiki Principles down and put them where you will see them every day as a visual reminder. Repeat them to yourself daily. As an emotion comes over you, remind yourself, “Just for today.” This will allow you to pause, notice the emotion and how it feels in your body. You will then be able to let the emotion release.
I will leave you with this final note.
“Anxiety is the experience of growth itself… Anxiety that is denied makes us ill; anxiety that is fully confronted and fully lived through converts itself into joy, security, strength, centeredness, and character. The practical formula: Go where the pain is.” - Peter Koestenbaum