Clarity Counseling Seattle
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What to do when you are feeling depleted

October 12, 2022
Posted By: Clarity Counseling Seattle
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The COVID-19 pandemic has tested our limits when it comes to stressful situations. For some of us, it has even shown us our limits. Even now, as we're still transitioning back to normalcy, we can feel the lack of focus, energy, and patience we experienced at the very beginning, nearly three long years ago. The rut that some of us are still experiencing might be referred to as "reaching our surge capacity".


What is surge capacity?

Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans sometimes draw on for short-term survival when we find ourselves in acutely stressful situations. An example would be the experience of going through a natural disaster. But whereas a natural disaster can be gone in a few days, the ongoing threat that we experience during a prolonged pandemic can last much longer, leaving our nervous systems depleted. The pandemic has demonstrated that we have limits to what our nervous systems can handle, and when our internal systems get temporarily depleted of their ability to deal with stressful situations, they need to be renewed. Nobody can rely on their surge capacity forever, which is why it’s important to learn how to adapt to a new way of living in stressful situations that may persist for a long period of time.


The importance of staying connected.

Perhaps the most effective protective factor we have available to us for facing adversity and building resilience are our social supports. Connecting with others, and returning over and over to connection with people we can lean on. Being social also includes helping others, even when we’re feeling depleted ourselves.⁠ Helping others is a win-win strategy of taking action when we're all feeling a sense of helplessness and loss of control about what’s going on in the world. When you take action with other people, you gain not only the benefits of social support but you also regain a sense of control. Staying connected and helping others can occur in a multitude of ways, including checking in on family or friends, buying groceries for an elderly neighbor, volunteering, or just making a point to call or email people in your life to ask to share of yourself.


Surge capacity in our marriage

With most of the therapists at Clarity Counseling Seattle being relationship therapists and couples counselors, we always consider the factor of how people are leaning into their relationships, or not, for support, as our primary partnership in life is one of the most effective tools for dealing with an over-surged nervous system. We don't just partner up in life with someone (or a number of someones if we're in a polyam relationship) to have someone to sleep with, have fun with, perhaps have children with... we choose partners so that we have built-in resources for dealing with the toughest parts of life. When we do couples therapy or relationship counseling in our Seattle therapy offices, we help couples to learn on a much deeper level to truly lean on each other emotionally, perhaps more than they ever thought they needed to, or ever thought they should. In the therapy world we call this "healthy dependence": letting yourself need your partner, especially during something as scary as three years of a worldwide pandemic. We're supposed to be dependent on each other, especially our life partner(s). Doing so doesn't rob us of our independence or strength or dignity...instead it's acting on how humans are designed in the first need each other. To let ourselves be supported by each other, especially when we're at capacity.

Of course, it's easy for a Seattle therapist like us to advise you to just go trust your partner to do right by you when you're most vulnerable. Many of us don't quite know how to do that effectively, which is why we have relationship therapists in the world. One way to practice "healthy dependence" is to reach out to us so that we can help you and your partner(s) to know how better to be there for each other. It's what we're here for. :)



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