Friday, October 22, 2021

Genealogy Burnout: A COVID Side-Effect

Whenever I begin a blog post, it usually takes several days of research, drafting, and editing before the final product is published. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study research methods for two semesters during both undergrad and graduate school, so the research and source documentation process is so engrained in me that I have to take the time to do it right. But this post is going to be different in that it will be more candid, not heavily researched, and not about an ancestor. So with that said: let's talk genealogy burnout.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year and half, you know that we are in the midst of the first global pandemic in over a century. Our entire lives were turned upside down overnight, and what we thought would be temporary changes lasting for a month or so at most have been our "new normal" for the past 19 months. And while physical health has been at the forefront of our thoughts during this time, the affects of our mental health as a result of Living in a prolonged state of uncertainty and fear need to be addressed.

If you were anything like me during the first few weeks of quarantine you might have, in your heart of hearts, been secretly glad for the break in life's grueling pace. Sure, staying home all the time, adjusting to working from home, not seeing friends and family in person, and wearing a mask on those preciously rare trips out in public to the grocery store was a pain, to say the very least. But on the other hand, for many of us, this quarantine was the first time that we truly had the time and energy to explore activities that we actually enjoy doing. During those early weeks I took up drawing and painting again, I practiced the flute pieces that had been on my "to play" list for years, and of course I did a lot of genealogy research and wrote several blog posts.

However, as weeks turned into months, the gravity of the situation started to weigh on me. In the beginning COVID was something vague and far-away, something that happened to "other people" and "other people's families." But as time went on and people that I knew people contracted the disease (and unfortunately some of those people did pass away as a result), I started to slip into a depression and to lose interest in the activities that I had thrown myself into a couple months before. 

This depression got even worse when I went back to working in-person after five months of working from home. At the beginning of the pandemic I was a middle school choir director, but due to staff reduction at my school I was transferred into an itinerant elementary general music position. The country entered into quarantine while my district was on Spring break, so what we all thought was going to be a week-long vacation turned into me never getting to say goodbye to my beloved choir students, and my students never getting to perform the musical and Spring concert that they had worked so hard on. During this time I prepared my lessons at home, and only went into the school once per week to prepare take-home packets for students without internet access. I had just begun to get over this sense of loss when we went back to school in September. For over a month my entire district was on eLearning, so I sat in an empty classroom recording and editing lessons all day. (Teaching to a camera is hard, by the way. 0/10, do not recommend.) When we finally did resume in-person school, it was so drastically different that it really just made me more depressed than happy to be back with students. Not only was I adjusting to teaching music in a different way - I was also adjusting to teaching a very wide age range, from PreK - 5th grade. I had no dedicated space for teaching music because I had to travel classroom-to-classroom (to reduce traffic in the hallways), and I was not allowed to sing or use instruments with students during the first few months. We did a lot of body percussion, a lot of music history, a lot of iPad apps. The kids and I were both sick and tired of this after just a few weeks. I was also recording and posting lessons for eLearning kids in addition to teaching in-person kids, so I was feeling incredibly stressed and overwhelmed most of the time.

By the time 2021 rolled around, I was incredibly burnt out with everything. Almost all of my energy was consumed by my job, and by the time I got home all I wanted to do was lay in bed and watch Netflix. I didn't want to research or write genealogy blog posts, I didn't want to practice, or paint, or any of the things I had enjoyed during quarantine. I jotted down several ideas for posts, but for the past several months the mere thought of sitting down to focus on researching and writing a post seemed like such a grueling and daunting task.

Three weeks ago the thing that I had dreaded and dodged for a year and a half finally happened: I contracted COVID, as did my father. Thankfully, my mother did not contract it. Neither of us had to be hospitalized, but I was sicker than I had been in a very long time. It felt like having a very bad case of the flu and bad allergies at the same time. I lost my senses of taste and smell, I had runny nose and watery eyes that about drove me crazy, my fever would spike at seemingly random intervals, and I had fatigue like I had never felt in my life. A round of steroids helped, but even with them it was absolutely miserable. (So let this be a lesson to you: wear your mask, wash your hands, AND GET YOUR VACCINE!) Needless to say, getting COVID definitely didn't help the funk that I was in. But now that I am finally able to come home from work and NOT sleep for several hours (most days), I am trying to pull myself out of it by engaging in the things that I enjoy - and of course, genealogy is at the top of that list.

I'm trying to get myself motivated to do this by getting some of these thoughts down and sharing them with other genealogists. Have you experienced genealogy burnout? Has your mental health been affected by the pandemic? Or were you able to focus and get a lot accomplished during this time?

Also, please let me know if there are any certain topics you would like to read about! I have a few in mind at the moment, including one that I am currently researching that is kind of genealogy-adjacent. Expect that post soon! (No seriously: hold me to that, lol.)

I hope that this post finds you all well, and that you are finding ways to keep yourself sane during this crazy time. Happy ancestor hunting!

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