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April 16, 2020

Is Coronanxiety Forcing Everyone to Count “Spoons”?

Spoons spread in a semicircle with text: Running Out of "Spoons"? You're Not Alone

It’s been a month since we talked about the struggles we might face in trying to write while dealing with a pandemic. So I figure it’s time for a check in to see how everyone is doing. *smile*

Even if we think we’re handling everything just fine, the world has forced us to make adjustments. So now might also be a time when we all can relate to “spoon theory.” Let’s take a look…

You Know the World Is Stressed When…

Yesterday, I came across a video from the kids TV show Sesame Street, home of the ever cheerful Elmo muppet, that underlined just how much we are all stressed right now. Sesame Street created a PSA for parents, starring Elmo’s dad, that reminds us that however we’re dealing with current events, we’re doing great.

Really, we are! These are unprecedented times, and the usual “rules” we judge ourselves by need to be thrown out the window.

How We Handle Stress Is Up to Us

When I say that how we handle stress is up to us, I don’t mean to imply there’s a guilt trip involved. There’s not “one right way” to handle stress, where if we’re doing it “wrong,” we have only ourselves to blame.

Nope, that’s not it at all.

Is coronanxiety making us all have to count our “spoons”? Click To TweetInstead, however we deal with this stress or survive this craziness is the right choice for us. Are we spending all our time bingeing TV? Scrolling social media? Or whatever?

Or are we burying ourselves in our work? Focusing all our attention on our family? Or whatever?

Okay, that’s obviously what we need to do to maintain our sanity and/or energy right now. There’s no wrong answer. Whatever we choose to do to get by is up to us, so we shouldn’t feel bad about our choices.

Coronavirus and Spoon Theory

Those of us who suffer from chronic health issues might be familiar with the spoon theory by Christine Miserandino. The spoon theory is the idea that people with chronic health issues don’t have unlimited energy during a day to do normal tasks.

If spoons = physical/mental/emotional energy, some people have a far more limited number of spoons each day than others. So they can’t do everything they want to do—even if they don’t “look” sick.

Here’s a video of Christine sharing her story

The other side of the story is that “spoonies” need to plan ahead and think about what they have the spoons for before embarking on an activity. They might have the energy to make dinner or take a shower, but not both.

Much of their life is spent thinking about all the mini-steps that go into a task so they can measure whether they have enough spoons to complete the job. Coronavirus and the anxiety it causes might be affecting us all in a similar way. The simplest tasks are harder and more complicated now.

We’re All Juggling Spoons Now

If we haven’t heard of spoon theory before, now might be a good time to learn the concept. Not only are we all more stressed, but we’re all having to think more about how to accomplish normal tasks.

A trip to the grocery store is no longer just a simple stop on our way home from work. Now we might have to:

  • plan meals we can make, even if we’ve never cooked before
  • create a list so we’re minimizing the number of times we have to go to the store
  • compare notes with neighbors for which stores near us have the items we need and which are sold out
  • double check the store’s hours (as many have cut back their hours) and think about visiting during their less busy times
  • arrange childcare for all the kids at home who shouldn’t (or aren’t allowed to) come with us
  • check in with elderly/vulnerable neighbors, to see if they need us to pick up anything for them
  • bring wipes for the cart and a mask to wear
  • pay attention to others in the aisles to maintain distance
  • make sure we’re not touching our faces or shelves/counters or anything unnecessarily
  • wash our hands (and wipe down doorknobs, etc.) when we get home
  • and so on…

In other words, just as “spoonies” find everyday activities more difficult than others do, even “simple” things take more effort for all of us now. It’s no wonder if we all start relating more to the spoon theory of how much we can accomplish each day.

So much has changed in just the last month and a half that we might have been too overwhelmed to consider it before, but take a minute and think about how all of the world’s chaos has affected our day-to-day lives. Now is a good time to remind ourselves why we might be struggling—and then give ourselves a break. *smile*

Even Introverts Are Struggling

I’m an introvert, through and through. In the Myers-Briggs test, I typically score between 75-85% on the introvert scale.

But like many other introverts, I’ve discovered that being required to limit interaction is a different matter from choosing to limit interaction. You know the situation is bad when even introverts are complaining on social media, “Enough!” *grin*

I miss going to restaurants and the movies. I miss seeing others. I miss having the choice.

I can’t imagine how extroverts are struggling right now. If it weren’t for my awesome readers here, with their great ideas for blog posts, I don’t think I’d be able to write at all.

How Have I Been Dealing with the Stress?

Anyone who doesn’t look too closely might think I’ve been doing well during this stressful time. After all, I’ve still managed to crank out my usual two blog posts a week. Many posts in the past month have even been extra long and detailed, going into various grammar and writing craft issues:

But for those who look closer, the last three posts revealed a bit more about how I’ve been doing. If you’ve read those posts, you might have noticed a theme in many of my sentence examples:

  • “I need some chocolate to get me through this day. Stat.”
  • She had eaten all the snacks in the house already.
  • She had been struggling with a constant sense of hunger ever since the pandemic increased her stress level.
  • In a fit of pandemic anxiety, she ate all the snacks in the cupboard.
  • She was always snacking in the afternoon.

Nah. Just coincidence, right? *cough* Or not… *grin*

So tell me, how have you been doing? Have you been struggling, and if so, in what way? Have you had any successes, and if so, do you want to share them here? Do you think the spoon theory applies to many more people in a broad way now? Do you have any insights to share?

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Deborah Makarios

Weirdly, what’s stressing me the most is the constant barrage of communication. After a couple days of lockdown peace, my inbox just exploded.

Plus yes, the getting of food requires more effort now (particularly for those who shouldn’t be going to the shops themselves), and I’ve got a book coming out soon (The Wound of Words – out in ebook May 15, out in paperback God Only Knows When) so I’m doing all the stuff for that, including pre-orders, and…

I think I’m going to need a holiday once lockdown is over – stay at home and watch Pride & Prejudice and not talk to anyone but my husband and the cats!

I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say that any way people deal with stress is ok, though. Definitely, now is not the time for a rigid diet or perfect housekeeping, but if your coping strategy involves kicking a puppy or yelling at your loved ones, now’s a good time to get some help with that.

Dawn

I’ve never heard of the spoon theory before but it makes sense. I have fibromyalgia so my number of spoons can be limited, especially if I don’t take care of myself by eating healthy or getting regular exercise. To make sure I can balance my number of daily spoons, I make a weekly to-do list and spread all my energy-draining tasks out evenly. It doesn’t help that one of my new tasks is homeschooling my son five days a week. But it does help that my husband is working from home and can take over the task of cooking lunch and/or dinner from time to time.

I like your comment about us introverts. You’re right. As an introvert myself, I don’t mind being at home all the time. But it sucks not having the freedom to go out when the need strikes.

I have noticed your snacking theme. I’ve had the same issue with wanting to do more snacking. Today I had a chocolate bar (and I don’t usually eat candy). Yesterday I had a Sonic shake (also not something I usually put into my body because it flares the fibromyalgia). And the day before that I ate a half bag of chips (it would have been a full bag if I didn’t have to share with my son and husband).

Sieran Lane

Hey Jami, I’m an extrovert, so the social isolation really bothered me at first. But after a while, I got used to it, and now I oddly enjoy staying at home and being left alone. ^_^” What bothers me the most right now, is my lack of physical exercise, and how my health is clearly going down the drain. I was quite paranoid about going out at first, because I didn’t want to catch anything, especially as I live alone and would have to suffer alone. But after talking to my doctor (I still go to the clinic for weekly testosterone injections), I realized that I might have been too paranoid. She says that joggers are not more likely to get the virus, even if they take in bigger breaths. And she recommends patients to take two 30-minute walks a day for exercise, if they can. Well, sadly I noticed that my legs have gotten much weaker over this whole month and a half of no exercise; even 30 minutes with a break in between was too much, even if I wasn’t walking that quickly. So I will have to slowly rebuild my strength. About spoons, I felt bad that I was spending much less time practicing for Pokemon Go battle tournaments than before, especially as most of my peers are so hard-working and perform much better than me as a result. In fact, my peers have been extra hard-working ever since the quarantine started, and some of my peers…  — Read More »

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

As long as I have have books to review I am fine. And I do.
The time is also allowing me to think of a new novel based on which of my genres needs another book.
My husband is feeling the isolation a bit more, so we try to give him household tasks so he has a reason to get up from his chair and accomplish something. Cooking for us is one.

Tambra Nicole Kendall

I have fibromyalgia and a number of chronic illnesses so I’m familiar with the spoon theory. Some days are better than others bur I try to not make myself feel guilty when I don’t do the things I had planned.

Those who don’t have chronic illness to deal with are feeling stresses they might not have encountered before and I hope the spoon analogy will help them and they will take the time to do things that are fun with their children and spouses.

We’ve been watching Classic Doctor Who (from the first episode onward) and playing with our Cairn terrier, Smudge Alpin MacRuff. Sweet hubby is playing video games and I’m trying to edit and learn a little more about digital art. There’s also some junk journals I’d like t make. Plenty to do!

Hugs to everyone and I hope you’re all safe.

Wonderful blog post as always, Jami!

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