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Covid Fatigue and Burnout: How I Lost My Shit Over a Maple Bar and What I’m Doing About It

Updated: Apr 2, 2021

It started with a donut.

It was the morning of my March half marathon (I’ve set a goal to run a half marathon each month this year –I mean, what else is there to do in a pandemic?), and I couldn’t wait to celebrate afterward with a maple bar from my beloved local donut shop.

Instead of going there right after my run, I opted for the sensible thing and went home, took a shower and ate an appropriately healthy breakfast first.

By the time I was standing in line six feet from other customers at the donut shop, my cravings for the pillowy soft maple bar had soared through the roof.

My traditional post-long run scrambled eggs with spinach were happily digesting in in my belly while my taste buds tingled with anticipation of the sticky sweet maple glaze melting on my tongue. I could picture myself on the car ride home with the crinkly pastry bag nestled in my lap as I tore off that first bite.

I eagerly stepped up to the counter and placed my order when the unexpected happened– THEY WERE OUT OF MAPLE BARS!!

It was only noon – how was that possible?!? The donut shop didn’t close for three more hours!! I felt myself subtly cracking from the disappointment, but managed to hold it together - I didn’t want to be the crazed lady that the donut shop staff talked about for the rest of their shift.

The employee behind the counter could see I was crestfallen and did the right thing by offering me some alternatives but nothing would do. I had my mind set on ONLY the maple bar and there was absolutely no feasible substitute, not even a maple glazed old fashioned.

I abruptly left the store empty handed, figuring it was my punishment for craving fat, sugar and carbs so badly in the first place. I was agitated and aware that I was being irrational and overreacting but it was almost like I didn’t have control of myself.

As the week went on, I felt my patience shrinking and my capacity diminish for dialogue and topics that didn’t conform my way of thinking and acting. “Crabby” was becoming my middle name.

Some mindfulness moments and conversations with others helped me realize that part of my problem was that I was bored, restless and craving novelty as much as I was craving that maple bar.

I didn’t want more stuff on my plate, just different stuff. The monotony of Covid was grating on me – work was the same, family was the same, my community service and running routines were the same and I seemed to be having the same conversations over and over again.

And here was the biggest tell – I lost my shit over not getting a freaking MAPLE BAR.

The ridiculousness of what I was feeling wasn’t lost on me. I was feeling off and these small sparks were warning signs for a potentially out-of-control wildfire headed my way.

At least I had a sense of awareness - I just needed to do something about it.

I did a little research and came to learn that I am experiencing classic signs of covid related burnout and fatigue:

  • Exhaustion (even though I was getting plenty of sleep and rest)

  • Physical and mental fatigue/lack of energy (so much energy was needed for seemingly simple tasks)

  • Increased irritability (um, maple bar outage says it all)

With my erratic sensibilities validated by a potential medical explanation, I knew I needed to do something differently to move forward. I did some brainstorming with friends and family on ways to bring more novelty into my life and break up the monotony I was feeling.

I decided to explore some changes to see if they’d land me in a better place and here’s what I’m starting with:

  • Focusing on what I’m grateful for –remembering all the goodness in my life like a midweek ski date on a bluebird day with my husband and a masked birthday celebration for a cherished run bud.

  • Celebrating the wins – I had two energizing conversations with potential new clients this week that really got me jacked up, in a good way.

  • Reconnecting with people I haven’t seen in a while – I made a run date with a friend I hadn’t seen in months and plans next week for a margarita at a Mexican restaurant with another friend that I hadn’t seen in person since before COVID.

  • Changing up my daily routine – I blocked time on my calendar in the middle of the day and didn’t script what it was for. I left it open to what I feel I need in the moment. I’m even going to try different dog walking routes. I love routine but these small changes are getting me excited.

Time will tell as to how these actions will reset my disposition but, in the words of my 18-year-old son, the first step is reflection, and the next step is action.

I’m committed to taking it one step at a time and also giving myself some grace. And also remembering that it’s just a donut.

Postscript: I decided to make a second donut attempt and went back to the donut shop the next morning. Lo and behold, they had a plethora of maple bars. And it was just as good as I imagined the day before.

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