|"Brain activity" by Cristóbal Cobo Romaní |
is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Since the start of August, I have been experiencing anxiety and memory problems. I have considered a number of causes (and consulted some licensed medical professionals). I will into detail, but the graph above is the most elegant explanation.
The low part at the left (understimulated) represents the first half of 2021. The low part at the right (overstimulation) represents the second half of 2021.
A Quick Look at 2020, the Year Living on Cortisol and Adrenalin
From February 2020 to December 2020, I was very busy preparing for life changes that I saw based on news I was reading out of China, California, New York, and Italy. Then starting the second week of March 2020, both universities where I taught moved to online only. Thankfully, I had been using Blackboard, an electronic teaching tool, for years. It's a great way to supplement face-to-face instruction.
But then in Fall of 2020, I learned how to use Zoom. Not only did I teach two classes, I also initiated ways to connect with a variety of people. I filed grades the second week of December then spent time with family who were able to gather together again thanks to testing and physical distancing.
January to July: Pandemic Fatigue, Winter Blahs, and Hermit Habits
In the Winter of 2021, I only taught one class: Death, Dying and Bereavement with additional material related to deaths caused by COVID-19. That's when I hit a low. I had been in lockdown at home since March of 2020. I was only teaching one class, and it was emotionally demanding because of the topic and because my students were experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression, which made it difficult for them to do the assigned work. I stayed in my pajamas and watched a lot of British Detective shows and, thanks in a large part to the film Dig (2020), I also watched several documentaries about the history of England.
The spring did bring an uptick in my energy and cognition. I taught a very demanding class online: teaching first-year college writing to 109 engineering students in China. I also was vaccinated (Pfizer, two inoculations). However it took me two months of hang wringing before I returned to the gym and to church.
Summer of 2021: Delta Came to SW Indiana
I had already committed to teaching four classes in the Fall of 2021, two in person and two online. Now that we would have to practice physical distancing in the classrooms while wearing masks, I realized that would need to change my teaching methods--again. I had spent a lot of time finding ways to be socially interactive through Zoom and Blackboard. Now I needed to find ways to use more technology inside of the physical classroom so that students could see key points instead of depending on my conducting a lecture. Also, students would need to hold discussions through their laptop because it's too hard to hear a person clearly through a mask. Delta cases, hospitalizations, and deaths were rising in our region, yet our vaccination rate in SW Indiana has been low.
Fall 2021: Teaching and Worshipping with Delta Causing Havoc
That's when my cognition fell apart. Since the middle of August, I have been making numerous errors on my teaching materials: incorrect dates, incorrect quiz settings, typographical errors in assignment sheets and comments on student work. I have also been disorganized at home: putting the milk in the freezer, dumping the recycles into the regular trash, driving past the correct exits when traveling around familiar roads.
I have taught four classes in one semester before. However, this time I am nearly 60, I hold space for my closest family members who are experiencing a lot of complications because of the pandemic, I have always been concerned about health and wellness, so the dangers of the virus / disease occupy my mind (and each of my gerontology classes have done extra assignments on COVID-19). My students are also less focused, more anxious, and more depressed, so I spend more time reaching out to them to keep them on task.
My doctors and family members think this cognitive overload caused by teaching too many classes while not allowing enough time to manage pre-existing anxiety issues (GAD).
Right now, I am quitting any commitments that are optional, but it's still more work than I can do in 18 waking hours. I am living one day at a time and trying to manage the embarrassment of my frequent errors due to cognitive overload.
2022 and Beyond: The Plan Is to Plan Less
Next semester, I am only teaching two classes, and they are both online. Whether it's my age, my anxiety, or the pandemic, I need to restrict myself to only working 4 hours a day. For months, I have been working 12 hours or more with paid work or volunteer work, and it's just too much.
And I just bought a meditation stool and a book about Buddhism. Why not learn about how to quiet the mind from people who have been doing this for centuries?
Keep the Home Fires Burning During the Pandemic (September 2020)
From Doing to Being (February 2014) Yes, I intended to shift 7 years ago. My brain insists that I really do it this time)
Plotkin Describes Life Stages (October 2013)