Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday and, while in the grand scheme of things it’s a little thing, it was a reminder of just how abnormal things are. On a normal Super Bowl Sunday we will have our neighbors over, plan to get some wings, make a big spread, and take in the game. Non-football related banter will be shushed by one neighbor during play, and all banter will be smacked down during the commercials. It’s a nice tradition.
This year the banter was via text, we picked up take out for ourselves, and commercials aren’t as much fun when your exuberant neighbor isn’t there to belt out a signature laugh. It was rather anti-climatic.
As I said, on the grand scheme of things missing a Super Bowl gathering with neighbors for a year is not a huge sacrifice. But the build up of a year of tiny sacrifices becomes huge over time. We’ve not been able to have a movie night with nieghbors, pile friends into a car to go to the movies, sit in a coffee shop to work, or just go grab a slice of pizza with someone we’ve not seen in a while. Each one of these things 1 is tiny on their own. Together, the combined weight of loss leads us to react to small things as if they were huge. And because we tend to have so many small joys, we may find ourselves feeling exhausted even at the smallest reminder of loss.
And if these little joys are taken away the stress of big losses is going to rise exponentially, because our little joys are our emotional pressure valves–they give us space to breathe. Without this space the death of a family member, the struggles of a small business, the isolation of quarantine, or the loss of a job will cause our stress levels to explode. We need the space of small joys to function.
So I offer two pieces of advice. First, when we experience small losses let’s acknowledge them. After a year of mitigation and semi-isolation “it’s not a big deal” isn’t a useful coping mechanism 2. Loss has to be acknowledged so we can pursue healing. Second, even if our normal joys are inaccessible at the moment, find some small joys to experience. Joys such as pursuing a neglected hobby, taking a walk, streaming a show, or just taking a ride in the car in silence 3 can be essential release valves for stress. And understand that pandemic brain fog is a real thing, it’s OK to lower your personal expectations–just don’t erase them. We’re not going to be able to replace all our lost little joys while the pandemic is on-going, but we can still experience some small joys which will help us breathe and deal with stress.
And remember, this will end. Some day.
- And feel free to add you own “small losses” in the comments. ↩
- You can make the argument that it never is, but right now there’s no argument. It just isn’t. ↩
- My older son asked if he could come with me to pick up dinner last night. It’s common for him to do so, but yesterday I said, “I kinda just want to go by myself.” He understood ↩