How Social Distancing Led to Social Burnout

white ceramic bathtub near black textile

It was a Wednesday night in the middle of May. I stepped into the bath. No candles this time. I didn’t have the energy for extras. I pressed play on my phone and placed it on the wooden chair at the side. The music came on softly, but powerfully all the same. Tears rolled down my face. I closed my eyes and I just stayed there, letting the sound and the lyrics envelop me. 

I couldn’t think anymore. My mind was shutting down and it scared me. For a few days prior, I had been feeling very lightheaded, teary and irritable. My words had been coming out all wrong, I’d start a sentence and not be able to finish it right, and it would echo in my head. For the first time in my life I FELT ANXIOUS.

I lay there and wept some more. I had nothing left in me and I couldn’t go on. 

All I could do was listen to the song. 

It started with “this is how I fight my battles“. Fighting battles is something I’ve done a lot of. Because of what I’ve been through I’ve had to develop toughness, resilience and extreme perseverance.

It goes on to say “it may look like I’m surrounded but I’m surrounded by you“ and this spoke to me DEEPLY. This is how I fight my battles offers a different way of coping – the power of surrender. It’s still hard for me to relinquish control. To give it all to Him. To lay it at His feet. It’s a different kind of fight. (Not one where I do everything and anything to figure things out and make stuff happen.) It’s a fight of letting go. A comprehension that even in all my strength with all my resourcefulness, skills and gifts I am nothing compared to the mighty power of God. The surrendering repositioned me. The lyrics guiding me to shift my focus on Him.

The song lasted 5 minutes and I played it three times on repeat. That 15 minutes in the bath turned into a very special moment. I was reminded that even though I didn’t know what was happening to me, God had me surrounded. He sees it all, He hears it all and He cares about it all. He is there through everything. He holds me when I’m broken and His strength kicks in when I’m weak.

The following day I got up and felt notably different. I made a couple of key decisions and set them in motion. I could function again.  Flow and energy returned and I felt confident and secure.

A few weeks later I came to discover I had experienced what’s known as ‘introvert burnout’.

As an introvert, I’ve always cherished time on my own so when lockdown was first announced I adjusted fairly easily. I was already working from home for half the week. But the reality is I don’t like being alone ALL the time, much the same as extroverts appreciate a bit of quiet contemplation from time to time.

But my home, once a peaceful sanctuary to escape to became (as it did for so many people) the Piccadilly Station of full-time homeworking for my husband, classroom environment for my kids and event space for the hosting of many, many Zoom meetings – for business, pleasure and ministry. I was consuming WAY more social media than usual in an attempt to stay connected with people, to cheer them on and empathise with their struggle, as well as staying abreast of the constantly changing guidelines. 

The dawning realisation that Company Directors like me were unable to claim furlough or qualify for the self-employed support package didn’t help. It re-ignited a traumatic memory from the past of ‘no-one is coming to help you Allison. You, and only you can get yourself through this’. So I committed to finding the best ways possible to anchor my property business, serve clients, reassure staff and protect livelihoods (my own included). This involved yet more socio-digital interaction via webinars, zooms and videos.

On top of this I was instrumental in launching the on-line ministry ‘Couples Talk’ whilst continuing to lead my women’s life group and weekly recovery sessions at church.  My output was pretty phenomenal.

Time was short and there was much to do, in between the weekly (or tri-weekly as it became at one point) food shop when invariably took twice as long due to queuing and the new level of patience required whilst shopping respectfully. My husband was shielding and my teenage boys can eat!

I’m not wired for full-time interaction and my home was no longer the quiet setting I could retreat to. I went out for walks but found it hard to create a meaningful solo recharge. Instead I’d smile at fellow lock-downers I met on my path wanting to give them some kind of reassuring sign that we really were all in this together. And that it would be okay.

On top of this I am an Enneagram Type 7 with a motivational need to experience life to the full with a sense of freedom. Life and freedom as I knew it were changing fast. 

For me, lockdown hasn’t been the ‘introvert’s paradise’ that I’ve seen bandied around.  Nothing can compare to the REAL company of others, much as we try to simulate it. When I add it up, I must have had the equivalent of a year’s worth of social exposure/engagement/activity in just 6 weeks.

And that’s how in a short time of intensity I became overstimulated, overwhelmed and totally depleted.

Lockdown has however been a reminder that God has got me. He always did have. And He always will. 

And that we are continually learning about ourselves.

As for the song I played in the bath……

The recordings on the album use cutting edge techniques scientifically proven to help heal parts of the brain damaged by all kinds of emotional trauma – like anxiety, depression, abuse, divorce and grief – by engaging both sides of the brain through the gentle panning of peaceful soundscapes known as bilateral music. The producers’ suggest you listen, breathe slow and deep and enjoy the healing, peaceful effects of these powerful biblical truths proclaimed over your life.

Thank you Bethel Music.