You hear it from many people.
The Coronavirus pandemic has been a time where people have the opportunity to be more “reflective” on what is really important to them and what isn’t.
Many people have come up with the importance of family and relationships and the well-being of others and how much more those matter than chasing excitement and escapes.
Something that goes along with it is that we have had a resurgence of oxytocin driven connectedness being able to induce pleasure, which by the way is associated with increased dopamine.
Oxytocin is a hormone associated with bonding and closeness. It is what causes a young mother to bond and be patient with her infant child even as that child is screaming non-stop.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure.
A few decades oxytocin and closeness led to an increase in dopamine and pleasure.
But with the advent of the Internet and social media, oxytocin driven dopamine/pleasure was replaced by adrenaline. Adrenaline is also a hormone associated with among other things excitement, better known as an adrenaline rush.
Over time, people, especially millennials got hooked on adrenaline and excitement and found oxytocin and emotional intimacy to be to slow, laborious and b-o-r-i-n-g. There have been other casualties. Joy has been replaced by excitement, peacefulness with exhaustion, intimacy with intensity.
Another thing that happened with the rise of the Internet and social media was the increase in stimuli to the point of sensory overload, overwhelm and ADD. The phenomenon of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) has caused people to incessantly check their devices for texts, messages, Instagram, Snapchat and now Tik-Tok posts.
The more people raced from one site to the next, the more distracted and ADD like their brains became. And the more ADD like their brains, the more they needed to keep the level of adrenaline high.
Because adrenaline is not too dissimilar to Adderal and other stimulants which is what is used in the treatment of ADD.
However, with the rapid changes brought to society by Covid-19 with the “stay at home,” “shelter in place” and social distance directives people have had a chance to re-evalutate their lives especially whether all the excitement chasing (which was never fulfilling that drove people to wanting more in hopes that it might eventually be satisfying) was worth it.
The challenge is how to “stay awake” and remain true to what you are discovering is important and fulfilling after the pandemic passes.
There is nothing wrong and you’re not a bad person if you go back to your excitement/immediate gratification chasing ways. That is unless you get a sense of what is important and meaningful during the pandemic, then lose your hold on it, only to rediscover it at the end of your life when you might have many regrets for having let it get away.
So how do you stay awake after the pandemic?
How do you hold yourself accountable to living a life based on what you have discovered is most important during this crisis?
Many years ago when we were learning to swim, there was something we relied on call the “Buddy System.” If you’ll remember you buddied up with someone to keep an eye on each other when we were beginning swimmers.
One way to stay awake would be to reinstitute the Buddy System with a partner or even as a group where you will commit to each other to be accountable to staying awake and living a life based on what you discover is truly important to both of you.
BTW this could be a great way to build and cement long-lasting relationships in your families, schools, organizations or even on social media, including Facebook or LinkedIn. Why not reach out to people, even people you only slightly know and say:
Hello, we don’t really know each other, but we are both going through this pandemic. I’ve discovered some things that are really important to me and am looking for ways to stay committed to them after the crisis passes. I think I might have a better chance of doing that if I had a ‘buddy’ where we supportively checked in weekly and held each other accountable. If you feel that same way and are game to give it a try, I’d like to end with a famous line from Mr. Rogers that I tweaked, ‘Won’t you be my buddy?'”
Also: My Wakeup Call podcast