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Why Youโ€™re So Tired

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Show Notes:

According to UC Davis Health, research has been done to document actual stages to what is called disaster stress. Kaye Hermanson, UC Davis Health psychologist in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, notes that it’s helpful to understand these stages, and I would suggest that this is true not only for our own mental health, but so we can talk about it with our students and help them to navigate their way through it as well.  

When quoting the research that “defines the stages of stress on communities from disasters,” Hermanson acknowledges that, if it makes us feel any better, we are actually right on target as a society.

The first stage after a disaster is for communities to pull together. People come together and support each other, and the news is flooded with stories of genuine and heart-felt efforts within communities to help each other. 

However, as Hermanson notes, “eventually, that heroic spirit wears thin as the difficulties and stress build up. That’s when we hit the disillusionment phase.”

In this phase of our response to disaster, we are less optimistic and anger starts to build up because we realize how tired we actually are from having to cope with the changes that this has brought into our lives.

We start to demand answers. We want to know how this is going to be fixed, and most importantly, we want to know how long this is going to last. And this stage is where we are now as a society.

 As Hermanson says, “Many people are exhausted by it all... some are saying they don’t care if they get COVID-19. They’d rather risk getting sick than stay home or be careful. Others have simply stopped listening to health leaders and science.”

And, she states that research indicates that we could remain in this phase for up to a year, because COVID is still an ongoing concern. 

Now, as bad as this sounds, it gives me a bit of a sense of relief to know that as out of control we often feel when it comes to COVID, we are not in entirely uncharted waters. Of course, Covid is new, but knowing that research has been done on community disaster response makes me feel like we have some kind of knowing in terms of where we’re headed. 

And if you’re wondering, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, following the Disillusionment phase is the Reconstruction Phase, which is “characterized by an overall feeling of recovery.” This is when we finally are able to rebuild our lives and adjust to a new normal yet once again, while continuing to grieve our losses.

Because we are in this complex phase of disillusionment, of trying to figure out how to navigate our world and our reality, let’s talk about how to most successfully navigate and LIVE within this disillusionment phase.

  1. Exercise:

    It probably won’t surprise you to discover that the number one way of coping during something like this is exercise. According to Hermanson, exercise is “the No. 1 best thing we can do for coping. Any exercise – even a simple walk – helps. It releases endorphins, gets some of the adrenaline out when the frustration builds up. Just getting out and moving can be really helpful for people.”

    My husband and I love to take long walks in our neighborhood in the evenings. We’re both very tired at night because we both work so hard, and a lot of the time, I have to talk myself into getting out there and doing it. However, when we do, we always come back feeling so much better.

    If you’re thinking to yourself that you don’t have the time for that, I get it. I know how much work and planning it’s taking for you to teach the way you want to and need to right now. However, working as many hours as you are is not sustainable in the long run.

    If planning is taking you a really long time, I encourage you to go back and listen to Episode #59, “How to Get Relief from “I’m Not Doing Enough” When Teaching from Home so you can begin to think about creating a more realistic schedule for yourself moving forward.


  1. Keep a Regular Sleeping and Waking Schedule:

    Talking about other things that you can control, keeping a regular sleeping and waking schedule is going to be very helpful when it comes to navigating this emotionally long-term.

    I feel so much better and am much more productive when I actually stick with a sleeping schedule of going to bed around 10:00 or 11:00 and getting up around 6:00 or 7:00, depending on the day and what I have going on.

    Getting my 8 hours is pretty much a non-negotiable. I used to get away with sleeping a lot less, and granted, when I first started teaching, I probably wasn’t getting 8 hours every night. However, when I do get less sleep, I get sick much more easily. I remember working like crazy as a new teacher and then getting home on Friday, falling face-first onto my bed by 7:00 pm and not getting up until at least noon on Saturday because I was so exhausted.

    That’s what my life was like even BEFORE a pandemic, so I can only imagine how tired you are now. And that’s why getting the sleep you need during the week is even more important than ever, so I hope you’ll commit to that for yourself. 

  2. Give Yourself Something to Look Forward To:

    The third coping mechanism (that isn’t in any of the articles I read when it comes to coping with the disillusionment phase but is one that I found to be incredibly helpful) is to give yourself something to look forward to.

    For me, one of the most challenging parts of this entire experience has been the not-knowing of when things are going to get back to normal, and one of the things I love most in life is to travel.

    It doesn’t even have to be big trips – just knowing that we have some kind of adventure planned or in the books gives me SO much joy.

    And, I think that during something like this, when we are all experiencing a sense of “Ugh, when is this going to END?” it can be really helpful to take our focus off of what’s bothering us most and re-direct it into something more positive.

    You might be thinking, “Well that all sounds wonderful, but how the heck are we supposed to do that when the point is that we CAN’T travel or do the things we normally would?”

    My response is that I think this is an opportunity for us all to get a little more creative. You’ve probably heard me tell you before on this podcast that my husband has a history of lung cancer, and so we are taking Covid even more seriously than most people because that is a pre-existing condition that we need to keep at the forefront of our thinking and living and all that we do.

    However, the fact that my husband has lung cancer is not a reason to stop living, even in the midst of Covid, a virus that targets the respiratory system. It hasn’t stopped us from living – it’s required us to think a little more creatively about how we can live within this new normal.

So for us, we decided to book a little getaway to the Smokey Mountains. We rented a little cabin on Air B&B, we brought our wipes and our Lysol, and the moment we got there, we cleaned all of the surfaces. We brought all of our food so we didn’t have to shop there, we brought our own pillows – and yeah, it’s a little crazy to think that we would do all of that – but because we did, we were able to get away for 5 days to the beautiful Smokey Mountains.

We were able to hike, order in from some different restaurants, and even do a little social distancing outlet mall shopping. The point is, it gave us something amazing to look forward to. Just knowing that we were getting away, that we would get to BE somewhere different, wake up somewhere different, and see different scenery and be in new places was enough to rejuvenate us.

We loved it so much that we’ve booked a second getaway for the end of October so we can hike those gorgeous trails when all of the leaves are changing – and the best part of it just might be all of those moments leading up to that trip in these weeks ahead that we get to look forward to something different. And now, we’re even planning and thinking creatively about how we might go to Florida in January, and that just lights me up like you wouldn’t believe.

I think the most important part for me in all of this is that I refuse to let us live our lives in fear and worry. And, that leads me to the fourth thing I’d love to share with you today, and that’s that we get to choose the way we think about this entire experience.


  1. We Get to Choose Our Response:

    We are all in the midst of this thing we call Covid. However, what we tell ourselves about what that means is where we can get into trouble. The thoughts we choose to think about and the story we choose to tell ourselves about this experience can either make or break us.

    Covid is a reality in our world right now. The next thought I can have is, “Geez. I guess that means no more travel for an entire year. This is so depressing. When is this going to be over?” Which can make the whole thing feel a whole lot longer because we’re dreading every single day.

    Or, we can say, “Okay, so what CAN we do safely? How CAN we still have some fun and create some experiences to look forward to within these new boundaries we find ourselves in?

    When it comes to teaching, there’s absolutely no difference. Yes, Covid is a reality in our world right now. The next thought we can have is, “Man, it’s going to be so flipping hard to teach online. I hate having to learn all of this. This is NOT what I signed up for. When is this going to be over?” Which again, can make the whole year feel a whole lot longer because we’re dreading every single day.

Or, we can say, “Okay, so what CAN we do online that we could never do in the classroom? How CAN we have some fun and create some experiences to look forward to within these new boundaries we find ourselves in?” 

It just requires us to get a little more creative, to think outside the box, and to rise to this challenge. Last week, I told you about a new resource I just created inside my TpT store of 20 online jokes and riddles for Halloween.

That’s a great example of how I took something that I knew worked with kids in the classroom – I knew, from having used this strategy for years, that having my students start their day with a Halloween joke or riddle set the tone for the day. It got us laughing and having fun, and the kids loved having a growing list of jokes that they could then tell their friends at recess.

So, now that many teachers are teaching online, I thought, “How could I take that same concept and create a digital experience for my students? How could I translate what I know works with kids, get a little creative, and create an online experience for my students that would accomplish the same goal?”

I just created this adorable resource of 20 Google slides where kids can actually manipulate and move the letters they need to solve the riddle. I used some super cute backgrounds and I added speech bubbles for the characters, so we have a pumpkin who’s afraid of the dark and a bat who’s afraid of getting stuck into someone’s hair, and a jack-o-lantern who likes to sing Christmas carols.

Now, I have a super fun and improved resource that I can not only use this year for teaching online, but that I can also use when we go back to in-person teaching next year to amp up the engagement for my kiddos because they’re a lot cuter than just printing the joke on the board, right?

It’s just a shift in perspective, but I’m a whole lot happier because of it, because I’m making the choice to see the possibilities in how we can create a fun and positive online experience for students.

And this doesn’t just benefit me, of course. It benefits my students because if I’m having fun and if I love the resources and tools I’m using, and if I’m excited to connect with my kids using these kinds of resources, they feel that energy and will be much more engaged as well. 

A lot of my students inside my R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy have been feeling like they don’t know how to motivate or engage their students when they’re teaching online. However, I encourage you to examine that feeling of not knowing how to engage students online, because the reality is that so many of the same things that work in the classroom work when you’re teaching online.

The better question is a problem-solving question of:

“How can I translate what I already know about teaching in the classroom to teaching online?”

What works with kids in the classroom? One of the things that ALWAYS works with kids and that works with us as adults as well is, as we’ve already talked about, having something to look forward to.

So, whatever kind of a motivator you would use in the classroom to track students’ progress towards reaching a class goal is what you need to translate into teaching online. I’ve created a few of these that you can use with your students, like a visual of an ice-cream sundae where you can move the scoops over to indicate that your class has earned their reward.

Or, maybe you would love this one - a super hero scene where kids “free the super heroes” to be released into the skyline of New York City:

Or, maybe you want to try the Halloween Mystery Motivator that I talked about last week:

Whatever you decide to use or want to make up to use for your kids, this digital version of the Caught Ya Being Good Jar, or the special motivator I teach you about inside my R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, psychologically gives kids that something special to work towards, especially when we all need something positive that we feel like we have some control over.

All right my friends, there you have it. I hope that this was helpful for you in helping you to understand why we are all feeling so tired: What the research says about disaster stress & what we can do about it to cope with more peace and positivity.

Until next time, remember: Just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.

๐Ÿ’› Lori

Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor

Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at and at

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