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Wellness & Beyond

We’re All Exhausted. Allow Yourself to Rest.

January 18, 2022

By Denise Perme

Denise PermeAs one year transitions to the next, we acutely feel the passage of time: “Wow, this year flew by,” or “I can’t believe this year is ending; it went so fast.” Normally we would reflect on our experiences of the passing year and our hopes for the one ahead. These last two years, however, have warped our typical perception of time and imperiled our experiences and hopes. Strangely, time drags and flies simultaneously. Our hopes rise and fall with variant surges, and it feels like there are small windows of hope that close as soon as they start to open.

It has been an exhausting two years. Please know you are not alone in your exhaustion. We all feel bone-tired and just done. Constant uncertainty and compounding stress are exhausting. Burnout is at an all-time high. Staff shortages and increased workloads have contributed, and if you don’t feel burned out yet, chances are you know colleagues, friends, or family members who do.

While none of us knows what the new year will bring, I hope the tips here will help you navigate its stress and uncertainty. You only need to pick one or two that resonate with you. There is no perfect way of being human.

  1. Appreciate your resilience. While we all may be experiencing feelings of fragility, frustration, irritability, or exhaustion, the good news is that people are incredibly resilient. We can still look for and find joy even amidst darkness, and we should try.
  2. Work on self-awareness. Symptoms of burnout and depression are similar. If you are struggling with mood changes and feelings of fatigue, take a closer look at what might be behind them. Knowing the difference between COVID fatigue and clinical depression can clarify the steps you can take to feel better.
  3. Focus on relationships. Well-being is enhanced when we build deeper relationships, but the pandemic has been hard on our connections to friends and family. Many of us retreated into a tiny orbit and only had energy to take care of immediate needs. There is no shame in that; we were, and still are, in survival mode.
  4. Take a breath break. Find a breathing practice that works for you and make it part of your daily routine. Life is full of daily events that trigger the stress response in our bodies. Deep breathing quickly quiets that stress response and gives us a bit of space to lower our shoulders, ease the tension, and create space in our mind to choose the next right thing for us to do.
  5. Give yourself grace. Everyone struggles. Everyone has imperfections. Normalizing the struggles and imperfections of being human and meeting them with self-compassion won’t remove the pain but will make it easier to keep going. In fact, self-compassion deactivates the stress response, helping to reduce tension and increase feelings of safety and security.
  6. Allow “no-bones” days. If your energy is low, embrace self-care and rest. Tell yourself, out loud if you want to, that you are only human and doing the best you can. Sometimes we need to lay low and make rest a priority. You are not “doing nothing”; you are resting. 

Bonus: Listen to the We Can Do Hard Things podcast by Glennon Doyle — as suggested by the D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) staff. The hardships of the pandemic continue into the new year. The difficulties of life beyond the pandemic, and our day-to-day struggles, continue because, well, life is HARD. We Can Do Hard Things is meant to “help each other carry the hard so we can all live a little bit lighter and braver, more free and less alone.”

If you need help with life’s challenges and are a D.C. Bar member, a law student in a D.C. school, or a judge in the District, the LAP (a free and confidential resource) is here for you. If you are concerned about a friend, family member, or colleague, we can help you navigate the conversation and locate resources. You can reach us at [email protected]. Please do not hesitate; help is available!

Denise Perme is associate director of the D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program.