Conserving My Energy as the Pandemic Persists

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by Mike Naple |

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The pandemic has been especially hard on people with disabilities, chronic illness, and rare diseases. Our community has faced ongoing ableist attitudes toward safety measures and protocols meant to keep disabled, immunocompromised, and other high-risk individuals protected from a pandemic with a death toll in the United States of over 900,000 people and counting. We’re exhausted.

The start of year three of the pandemic has me feeling as if I just lost a bruising battle to Rogue. If you’re a fan of the “X-Men” comics, perhaps you’re familiar with Rogue, a mutant who possesses the ability to absorb the energy and powers of others through her touch. Rogue cannot always control this ability to take power and energy from other mutants.

In a similar fashion, I have found that living with pulmonary hypertension — coupled with the mental and emotional side effects of living through the pandemic — has made it challenging to maintain my energy reserves.

Many of us spent most of the past two years quarantined at home to limit our exposure to COVID-19 and a possible severe reaction. While I remained at home to stay safe, that choice also brought with it anxiety, sleeplessness, and higher levels of daily stress that still persist in some manner or another. All of these side effects can contribute to reduced energy reserves.

I felt lucky enough during the first year of the pandemic to be able to work remotely from my apartment. I captured some additional sleep time, and by not having to navigate a morning commute on public transit, I reserved some of my energy that I could later devote to my job.

As the months wore on, with nowhere to go, I found myself giving in to my workaholic tendencies, devoting more and more of my energy to those tasks. With my home and office settings indistinguishable from each other, I struggled to find natural stopping points or moments of closure to transition from the work day to the evening.

Some nights it felt like Rogue was cohabitating with me, stealing a little more energy from me each night.

I might pride myself on my ability to be highly productive in my job (I don’t think there is a mutant with that ability yet), but the last few years have shown me how that level of productivity is unsustainable — not to mention meaningless if it is achieved at the cost of my health and proper management of my PH.

Protecting my energy reserves

I’ve had plenty of time to reflect during the pandemic about my life with PH. I realize now that after my diagnosis in 2016, I was too quick to return to my regularly scheduled programming, and I never allowed myself the space or the grace to fully acknowledge the changes taking place in my body and life. It’s hard for me to accept when my mind is sharp and ready to do something, but my energy levels are empty. That stops me in my tracks.

I try managing my PH symptoms so that I have enough energy to fill productive hours with the people and things I enjoy doing, including my job, cooking, advocacy work on behalf of the PH community, and writing this column.

Yet the pandemic is almost demanding that I attempt to redefine how and when I use my energy to ensure that I’m not constantly depleting my own reserves. It’s almost like there’s a big stop sign in front of me asking me to pause and really consider how I can better protect my energy levels and health. Not every day needs to be especially busy or hectic for me to find value in it.

Proper management of my energy reserves also means prioritizing time for rest and relaxing, low-energy activities. When I’m feeling anxious and need to slow down before a possible crash, I turn to books and escape into the pages.

One night after an especially tough day, I closed my laptop and put aside a handful of unfinished work obligations to finish a book I had started the day before. It might be one of the best decisions I’ve made all year.

While I rarely choose the more restful and relaxing activity, I can choose to listen to that impulse more often, especially as the pandemic continues. It’s a necessary attempt to more efficiently use and protect my energy reserves and prioritize my health.

How has the pandemic affected your energy levels and productivity? Please share in the comments below. Also, please follow me on Twitter: @mnaple.

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


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