“I’m losing my mind.” That’s what I told myself as I reviewed my list of tasks and couldn’t focus enough to tackle even one item. There are many things I can’t do, like hop on a pogo stick, train an iguana, or make hot dogs from scratch. But I’m someone who can get stuff done.
Except lately sometimes I can’t. And it turns out I’m not the only one. In a recent article, science journalist Tara Haelle explains, “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.” The problem, she says, is that the pandemic we’re in has gone on so long that we’ve depleted our surge capacity.
When our surge capacity is zapped, we feel tired and unmotivated, find it hard to concentrate, and experience more anxiety and/or irritability. Here’s the kicker: The more productive and high-achieving you usually are, the harder all of this will be on you because it’s not your normal.
Who can relate to this? (Raises hand.) Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with believing my worth = my ability to meet expectations. Whose expectations? Mine, yours, society’s, God’s, Instagram’s, the dog’s. When I can’t meet expectations, I worry I’m no longer worthy of love and belonging (sheesh, that feels vulnerable to say). So my first instinct is always to fix it.
But what if the thing I really need in that moment is to let go?
Mary Shannon, author of the study Lose Control: The Way to Find Your Soul, says, “Have you ever thought you had your life under control—until you didn’t? Perhaps you said things like ‘God is in control’ or ‘God’s got this,’ all the while living your life as if you’re the one who has to hold it all together. It’s like walking around with a cup of hot coffee, afraid it will spill with one wrong move. And when it does, making a mess, you realize what little control you actually have and how dependent on God you are.”
Not only am I a sucker for any analogy that involves coffee, I also can see myself in these words. From a scientific perspective, Tara Haelle also agrees. She says what we need when our surge capacity is depleted isn’t to try harder or do more. Instead it’s to accept that life is different right now and expect less from ourselves. I’ll admit I cringe when I read that phrase. Expecting more from myself is easy. But expecting less? Hard and scary.
I really want to wrap this up with a quick solution, a 3-step plan. But I think maybe this time that’s not the point, that what our souls need most is to sit with this for a moment, to say to our weary selves, “You are still loved.”
Loved when the to-do list goes undone.
Loved with dirty dishes in the sink.
Loved with doubts and messy emotions.
Loved when we’re losing our minds.
Loved the same all the time.
Cheering You On,
This week on the More than Small Talk podcast author Mary Shannon joins us to talk about how losing control can actually free your soul. It’s good news for anyone who feels like they need to try harder, do more, or keep the whole world going.