Depletion of Surge Capacity: One Mom’s Struggles

Depleted. That’s the best way I can describe it. My friend shared this article recently, and it hit SO close to home I nearly burst into tears: “Your ‘Surge Capacity’ Is Depleted — It’s Why You Feel Awful.” I kept thinking about the concept and how closely it applies to me. Then I had a long conversation with two friends – both amazing mothers, great wives, and accomplished professional women, and they both admitted they felt the exact same way!

Depletion of the Surge: It’s Real

The feeling is a low-ness, a craving/mourning for what once was, a frustration that doesn’t seem to end, and a level of irritation for the people in your house that seems way off base. I’m mostly ashamed to admit it, even to my own husband, but I feel my capacity being depleted. At least now I have words for it.

“In those early months (of the pandemic), I, along with most of the rest of the country, was using ‘surge capacity’ to operate… 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. But natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely.”

The author also mentions how she was actually doing well at the beginning of the pandemic even though it was stressful because overachievers tend to thrive at first when dealing with stress and major adjustments. YES! This is me – I was so on top of it: homeschooling, new routines, defined schedules, and making it work with our adjusted life. Until I wasn’t. Until it was just too long.

“The pandemic has demonstrated both what we can do with surge capacity and the limits of surge capacity…When it’s depleted, it has to be renewed. But what happens when you struggle to renew it because the emergency phase has now become chronic?”

Chronic. It’s unknowing about the ‘end date’ that rocks my super-scheduled, Type A, control freak brain. I keep re-reading this article and nodding my head! This was written for ME! “This is an unprecedented disaster for most of us that is profound in its impact on our daily lives. But it’s different from a hurricane or tornado where you can look outside and see the damage. The destruction is, for most people, invisible and ongoing. So many systems aren’t working as they normally do right now, which means radical shifts in work, school, and home life that almost none of us have experience with.”

Adjusting

“How do you adjust to an ever-changing situation where the ‘new normal’ is indefinite uncertainty?” Personally, I don’t know. And probably, this is the most frustrating part for me.

So I’m taking a deep breath and attempting to follow the advice in this article.

If you’re finding yourself also wallowing in the despair of “when will this end?”, maybe some guidance can help you as well. Check out these tips and see the full article here. Please also consider seeking a therapist or other support system if your mental health is at stake. We must take care of ourselves, ask for help, and work through this challenging time in the healthiest way possible.

Guidance

  • Accept that life is different right now
  • Expect less from yourself
  • Recognize the different aspects of grief
  • Experiment with “both-and” thinking
  • Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you
  • Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships
  • Begin slowly building your resilience bank account

Start small. Be gentle with yourself. Find joy in beautiful things. Take care of your state of mind. Surround yourself with a support system where you can be free to vent openly and be reminded just you how “normal” your feelings really are!

Rachel Harris Ledet
A New Orleans native and entrepreneurial mom, Rachel maintains a daily balance of running her own marketing firm, 30|90 Marketing, managing her kids’ schedules, and maintaining an active extracurricular life including teaching dance, volunteering, and instructing a digital marketing class at UNO. Rachel lives in Mandeville with her best friend and husband Lenny, daughters Addison and Amelia, and step-son Luke. With a growing family (baby number 4 is on the way this summer) and a million balls in the air, Rachel keeps things light by continuously learning, spending time with amazing friends, blogging, finding any route to a concert or outdoor festival, and planning her next get-away with her husband. A sense of humor can get you through almost anything, so she tends to surround herself with fabulous and very-funny people. You can learn more about her here.

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