Pandemic Flux Syndrome: What it is and how to help

(by Kirsten Keach,LMFT) If you’re feeling a strong desire to make a major life change, or just shut down for the next few months, you may be responding to the impacts of “pandemic flux syndrome.” Pandemic flux syndrome is not an official diagnosis. It is a term coined by Amy Cuddy and JillEllyn Riley in order to describe impacts that this phase of the pandemic is having on many people. 

In their article in the Washington Post, Cuddy and Riley discuss the emotional process that many went through over the Summer. In June, with the widespread availability of the vaccine and the onset of the exciting summer season, most people described themselves as optimistic about the future. But by the end of July, with the uncertainty of the delta variant, many people started to report higher levels of anxiety and depression. 

People who leaned more towards anxiety felt a strong desire to make a major life change, i.e. quit their job and start training to hike in Nepal. People who leaned more towards depression experienced an urge to shut down, sleep, and hide from the world during this time. Both of these experiences are reactions to the impacts of the ongoing pandemic. 

Cuddy and Riley identified three different factors that may be contributing to this state. First, there was no end of the pandemic, reset moment like many were hoping would happen with widespread vaccinations. This contributes to the feeling that the pandemic is going to drag on for an unknown amount of time. This makes future planning and being optimistic more difficult. 

Second, our brains and bodies have experienced crisis, or flight or fight mode for an extended period of time. Our bodies’ emergency systems are designed for short-term use, in order to help survive an immediate threat to our survival. This threat has occurred for 18+ months now with little reprieve. To put it simply, our nervous systems are fatigued. 

Third, we are making “affective forecasting errors” that could be seriously impacting how we feel about things. Affective forecasting errors, coined by psychologists Dan Gilbert and Time Wilson, refer to the consistent unreliable predictions that we make about how we are going to respond emotionally to events in the future. For example, people anticipate that exciting events in their life will make them feel good and continue to feel good for a long period of time. The period of time is usually much shorter than expected. Alternatively, people often anticipate that they will be devastated after a difficult event like a break-up for a much longer period of time than they actually are. 

Affective forecasting errors in the case of the pandemic might look like feeling like seeing your friends again was going to make you feel better for a significant period of time, when in fact, for some people, it didn’t have that effect, or the benefits were only temporary. Other people were holding on for the vaccine and felt that they would feel safer when they were vaccinated. For some people, that wasn’t the case. They were vaccinated and still feeling unsafe. This sense of hope for the future not coming to fruition could be contributing to the increase in emotional stress. 

How to Help Yourself Heal 

One of the best ways to support yourself during this time is to support your nervous system and help your body’s emergency response systems to calm down. A great way to do that is to have a daily practice or routine using energy medicine techniques. Below are a few techniques you can try. This way you can experience the benefits for yourself and see if they improve your sense of well-being through-out the day. 

Four Thumps​

Heel Shock Release​ 

Thymus Thump

Want to try more energy practices to relieve stress and trauma?

Visit ACEP’s Resources for Resilience.

Author: Kirsten May Keach MA- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Kirsten Keach is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Orlando, Florida. Her specialty is relationships. She helps couples and singles develop meaningful, lasting, soulful love relationships. In her free time she is an avid traveler, Improv comedy performer & Amateur Salsa Dancer. Learn more about Kirsten here

Video Resources Provided by the ACEP Humanitarian Committee

The mission of the ACEP Humanitarian Committee is to develop and implement humanitarian projects that alleviate emotional distress caused by catastrophic natural and man-made events around the globe. We do this by encouraging and assisting ACEP members in developing humanitarian projects that utilize recognized energy psychology and other modalities that meet ACEP’s standards and guidelines. Learn more here.

Learn more about pandemic flux syndrome

Why this stage of the pandemic makes us so anxious

Brené with Amy Cuddy on  
Pandemic Flux Syndrome

Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash

Comments

  1. Very interesting, thank you.

  2. Pam Cornwell says:

    Just wanted to observe that these techniques can be found in Donna Eden’s book Energy Medicine. For even more help, you can locate a practitioner of Eden Energy Medicine to work with personally.

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