Why is the CoVid-19 Lock-down so Exhausting?

 Many people have noticed that they have felt more exhausted than usual during lock-down. Even though some people have been doing physically less than usual they still didn’t feel they have more energy. 

So, why is CoVid-19 lock-down so exhausting? Well, there are several logical reasons why lethargy, brain-fog, and an inability to focus are completely logical responses.

Firstly, the word ‘unprecedented’ has been widely bandied about to describe what it’s like to live through a pandemic. However, the truth of living through unprecedented times is that it is exhausting and takes a huge toll on our brains. 

CoVid-19 was unfathomable for our brains

This might seem hard to fathom at first but makes perfect sense when you understand a little about the way our brain has evolved over the millennia. The brain of the earliest sentient creatures is commonly known as the ‘Lizard Brain.’ It dates back to at least 650 million years or more. Much more recently, around 23 million years ago our brain had evolved and became more complex. In the relatively recent time of around 2.5 million years ago, the human brain had evolved yet again to an even greater level of sophistication. By then our brain had evolved to have the ability for conscious thought pretty much as we know it today.

The way evolution works are that all the information (inputs) received by the brain follows the original route or neural pathways. Therefore all input – be that auditory, visual or tactile – goes first to the Lizard or Reptilian complex part of the brain. The inputs then travel through the Paleomammalian complex until it finally travels through to the more modern Neomammalian complex. The latter is what brain scientists recognise as part of the brain that facilitates self-awareness and conscious thought. 

Just thinking about CoVid-19 makes us tired 

So, what we have here is an extraordinarily complex process that receives every input that comes in from the outside world – and there are millions of inputs every second. Each input is tested as it travels through the brain’s neural pathways to see if it is part of a recognised pattern so that some sort of suitable response can be immediately triggered. This all happens below our conscious awareness. Millions of checks and counter-checks searching for familiarity and recognition in less than a nanosecond. And, we never give any of this a moment of thought – it just happens without us knowing.

Except now our ‘unprecedented times’ means the Covid-19 inputs going into our brain are all new to most of us and not experienced before. So, when our brains are confronted with the unique repercussions of the virus very few of us can find any familiarity with this situation. There are no patterns to be recognised to trigger a familiar response. This leaves us suffering from increased anxiety and even trauma when we can’t quickly find a solution to our current situation. With anxiety comes increased levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol that then course through our body. It is exhausting to be constantly stressed. A key factor of stress is that often one’s breathing becomes more shallow and people can find it almost impossible to relax and unwind.

Pandemic anxiety can fee like trauma

Living with a constant state of increased stress and hyper-vigilance is similar to the distressing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For many, the Government’s idea to “Be Alert” just made many people feel more alarmed and overwhelmed.

Adding to the stress most people are already living with, thoughts of Covid-19 infected many people’s sleep too. Those who had always slept like babes before lock-down reported hour upon hour of wakefulness, fitful sleeping patterns and broken nights. 

CoVid dreams are our way of coping

CoVid Dreams became a talking point. ) Often people’s dreams had become extraordinary and sometimes disturbing flights of fantasy. Our dreams became Technicolor weirdness as our brain tried to process the changes in our lives. REM or Rapid Eye Movement happens crucially as we sleep and it during REM cycles that we dream. As people have become more inactive during the day and their world has become smaller with lock-down the brain got busy using our dreams to process all the unique inputs. This is a good thing. It’s our brain’s natural response to the monumental changes and challenges in our lives and REM sleep helps us process and cope with these unprecedented times.

How drinking interrupts your dreams

During lock-down alcohol consumption has increased by almost 50% for some demographics Alcohol reduces the brain’s ability to go experience REM sleep. This means that people drinking alcohol may feel it’s helping them with their locked-down stress but it’s reducing their brain’s capacity to process and cope on a subconscious level so that they could be increasing stress level instead.

Some of the content for this post was included in a live stream interview with Emily Barclay the founder of www.perimenopausehub.com for their Facebook group on 1st June 2020. Sally Baker has been appointed as Senior Therapist on the expert panel to support women with the emotional challenges of perimenopause.

If you’re struggling with heightened anxiety when you think about emerging from lockdown you could benefit from exploring and resolving triggers to your anxiety. Please make contact for an obligation free call to discuss how you can feel calmer in the early post-Covid-19 days.

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