Feeling Spent? Here’s How To Replenish Your Capacity To Cope

Oct 29, 2020, 10:16 PM | Updated: Nov 10, 2020, 6:13 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A worldwide pandemic. Distance learning. Child care concerns. Economic worries. Protests and social unrest. An earthquake. Wildfires. A very heated election year. It’s enough to make anyone say, “2020 we surrender!”

If you feel like you just can’t take one more thing or you’ve completely run out of gas, it’s not your imagination. Doctors said it could be because your personal “surge capacity” is depleted.

Surge capacity is the mental and physical ability to adapt to intensely stressful situations, like natural disasters or the death of a loved one.

Psychiatrists, like Dr. Travis Mickelson with Intermountain Healthcare, said our minds and bodies are designed to handle these situations, but only for a short period of time.

“What has been happening to us over the last nine months is not an acute stressor, not just one stressor, that lasts for a moment in time — it’s a stressor that has been lasting for months and months and months. And our bodies and our brains aren’t inherently designed to manage this type of chronic stress,” said Mickelson.

Sound familiar? It sure does to a lot of people, like Matt and Megan Halversen.

“On the surface, it looks like it’s been great,” said Matt Halversen. “But there’s a lot of stress. And it’s built up.”

“All of the extra stresses that people are dealing with, I feel like all of us are still in survival mode even if we are totally set,” said Megan Halversen.

Survival mode is what it feels like to the Halversens, even though everything on the outside seems fine. They both have jobs, a beautiful home and their kids are perfectly happy. But after seven months of living through a pandemic, the stress of 2020 is getting to them.

“I’m more irritable, particularly with the kids,” Matt Halversen said. “And sleep deprivation is definitely something I feel sneaking up.”

“I’m just getting fatigued more easily and I feel like I’m more in that fight or flight type situation where I can suddenly do a lot but then I’m depleted,” said Megan Halversen.

Here are signs your capacity to cope might be depleted:

  • Restless sleep patterns
  • Feeling distracted
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Easily irritated
  • More frustration
  • Anxiety
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Acting out (particularly teens)

Mickelsen pointed out there are also physical symptoms to watch for.

Dr. Travis Mickelson with Intermountain Healthcare. (KSL-TV)

“Feeling restless, feeling like we can’t relax, can’t calm our bodies down. Noticing physical symptoms such as increased heart rate,” said Mickelsen. “It’s very common for people experiencing stress to experience stomach aches, headaches.”

Mickelson said once you’ve hit your surge capacity, it’s perfectly normal to feel this way.

How you deal with it is up to you, but you should take steps to address it.

The body releases a surge of hormones to help us cope with stressful situations. Once a stressful event passes, those hormone levels return to normal. But if a series of stressful events or a long-term event keep those levels high, that can put us at risk for many health problems such as memory impairment, depression and heart disease.

Doctors said one of the worst things we can do is continue to push through when we’re not feeling replenished.

The Halversens said exercise has helped. They also dance together, which relieves stress, and they get outside a lot. “There’s a lot of evidence that supports that being outdoors, being in nature, doing physically active activities, have a direct effect on our emotional state,” said Mickelsen.

Matt and Megan Halversen enjoy dancing with their kids to relieve stress. (KSL-TV)

Other coping strategies experts recommend include:

  • Maintain a routine
  • Stay socially connected, even if socially distanced
  • Help others

“Being helpful, not only does it make us feel good and gives us a sense of meaning, but it distracts us from our own challenges,” said Mickelsen. “As the days go on, we’re continually trying to figure out new things that will work that will help,” said Megan Halversen.

The Halversens are also planning a vacation and Matt Halversen said he’s going to start seeing a therapist.

Finally, Mickelsen said one of the most important things you can do is to focus on things that are going well in your life.

“For every one thing that’s not going well in our day, try to identify at least three things that are going well,” he said.

The Halversens are already trying that and say they’re crossing their fingers everyone makes it out of this pandemic with their surge capacity intact. “I just hope that things will simmer down a little bit for all of us,” said Megan Halversen.

If you try some of these coping strategies and your stress level isn’t coming down after a few weeks, that might be a sign it’s time to reach out to your doctor or a therapist for more professional help.

Intermountain Healthcare also has a free hotline available to help people struggling with their mental health during the pandemic. The hotline is 833-442-2211.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus Utah

FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...
Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer

US clears updated COVID boosters for kids as young as 5

The U.S. on Wednesday authorized updated COVID-19 boosters for children as young as 5, seeking to expand protection ahead of an expected winter wave.
2 months ago
Alex Cabrero and Mike Anderson, KSL TV

Sandy woman shares frustration of ongoing battle with COVID-19

As life starts to return to normal from the pandemic, for millions of Americans, it still causes a daily struggle. That's the case for one Sandy woman, who shared her story Tuesday.
2 months ago
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 09: A pharmacist prepares to administer  COVID-19 vaccine booster sho...
Jed Boal

University Health recommends getting omicron booster and flu shot now

The CDC approved the COVID-19 bivalent boosters that target the most recent omicron variants on September 1. Since then, tens of thousands of Utahns have rolled up their sleeves.
2 months ago
FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...
Jed Boal

Despite reaching 5,000 deaths, Utah’s COVID-19 numbers are down

The director of the World Health Organization said yesterday about COVID-19, “the end is in sight,” even if we are not there yet.
3 months ago
FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...
LAURA UNGAR AP Science Writer

Is COVID-19 winding down? Scientists say no

New booster shots have arrived and social distancing guidelines have eased but COVID-19 infections aren't going away anytime soon. Experts predict the scourge that's already lasted longer than the 1918 flu pandemic will linger far into the future as the virus continues to cause deaths and may well mutate or evolve into a new disease.
3 months ago
FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...

US clears updated COVID boosters targeting newest variants

U.S. clears updated COVID-19 boosters targeting the newest omicron strain; shots could begin within days.
3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Feeling Spent? Here’s How To Replenish Your Capacity To Cope