Guides News Your World

My COVID Hangover: Feeling Rundown After a Year of Pandemic

Does anyone else need to take a nap? Let’s talk about my COVID hangover. 

Let’s just recap recent events, shall we? A tumultuous presidency led to a great political rift, a global pandemic turned high fives and hugs into acts of aggression, everyone decided at the same time that riding bikes and camping were awesome, the world ran out of bikes and camping gear, caring about the health of other people became a violation of individual rights, and only private school kids actually set foot in a classroom. I’m probably leaving something out, but that’s the last year or so in a nutshell and what’s led to my COVID hangover.

So, I say again, does anyone else need to take a nap? 

It’s been a long year and I’m tired. But there’s no time to rest because the U.S. is finally crawling out of its COVID hole. People are getting vaccinated, restaurants are open for indoor dining, some of us can even go to the grocery store without a mask. Things are, dare I say it, getting back to normal. Or at least, as normal as we can be after going through a global pandemic that divided our country both physically and philosophically. 

Everybody approached their pandemic year differently. Personally, I was determined to make the most of the dismal situation. We’re stuck at home and can’t see friends or family? Okay, we’ll go camping. A lot. We played board games and learned new skills. I read books! I built my own climbing wall and revamped my backyard pump track. I did a pushup challenge with my high school buddies (I did not win, unless you consider repetitive use injuries as winning). I did multi-day bike rides. We paddled lakes we’d never seen before as a family, hiked to remote waterfalls, and spent more time skiing the local hill than we have in years past. You could argue that I lived one of the most purposeful years of my adult life in 2020. And it was objectively awesome. I got after it and made the most of the strangest year in modern history. 

And now I’m fucking tired. Not physically tired. More like emotionally tired. Like after you go all out for your best friend’s wedding and spend the majority of the night doing the worm on the dance floor and chatting up said best friend’s weird and handsy aunt, and the next morning you simply have nothing left to give to the world around you. You’re all used up. Spent. 

Let’s face it, even if you dedicated all of 2020 to camping and giving your backyard a makeover worthy of an HGTV show, it was still a difficult year. I feel like I spent my time trying to be upbeat and point a flashlight on the silver lining of a very, very gray cloud for myself and my family. Especially my kids. I watched firsthand as they suffered one disappointment after the other. No school. No Little League. No camps. No playdates. No visits from grandma…2020 was the year of “you can’t do that right now.” So we leaned really hard into the things we could do—neighborhood bike rides and constant campouts and hiking and exploring parks and forests we’d never been to before. We thought if we just kept ourselves busy enough, we wouldn’t really notice all of the things we were missing. 

And honestly, I kind of loved it. For a guy who doesn’t like big social situations and who would rather spend most of his time in the woods, the global pandemic had its upside. Sure, those woods were more crowded than normal because suddenly the entire country decided that riding bikes and camping was the best and they should definitely start a podcast about it, but I was still in the woods doing the things I loved. 

As good as pandemic life was, I’m obviously glad the world is getting back to the neighborhood of normal. My son’s playing little league and my daughter can do volleyball camp again. We could even travel this summer if we want to. I feel like there’s a weight lifted off my shoulders because we’ve gotten through this very challenging thing. 

But I need a minute before I get full speed ahead into my new, old life. I’ve spent so much time and energy on making the most of the past year, and now that it’s over I’m exhausted from the inside out and experiencing a COVID hangover. 

I keep reading articles about how, as a society, we have all of this pent-up energy because of our year of stay-at-home orders and social distancing, and that people are looking forward to blowing it out this summer with big trips and big plans. Everyone seems to agree that this is supposed to be the “BEST SUMMER EVER!!” 

It makes me think I’m the only one who’s exhausted from this COVID hangover and that maybe I approached the pandemic all wrong. Instead of attacking it, maybe I should’ve let it wash over me. Maybe I should have taken more naps and developed a more complicated relationship with alcohol. I actually drank less during the pandemic, doing a deep dive into non-alcoholic beers. Who drinks less when the world is crumbling around them? What’s wrong with me? Did I miss my opportunity to take a year off? 

And now I’m supposed to get excited about the chance to get on a plane and visit a far-flung beach or carry a heavy backpack through a national park on the other side of the country? I’m not saying I’m sick of the outdoors, but I need a rest day. But like for two or three months. I’m not supposed to tell you this because I’m an outdoor writer and this is an outdoor magazine, but all I really want to do right now is wander around the mall drinking a giant Jamba Juice. Maybe get a soft pretzel (perfect COVID hangover food) and see a movie. You know what I mean? 

But summer is in full swing and that usually means big adventures for myself and my kids. I should be organizing multi-family swimming hole excursions and epic rides across vast forests, but I just don’t know that I have the energy. What am I supposed to do with this newfound ennui for the outdoors? My wife says she needs a big vacation. Something tropical with surfing. My son wants to ride bikes all the time. My daughter wants me to take her and her friends camping. How can I muster the energy to spearhead all of these adventures when I just want to take a nap? 

I’m sure I’ll get there. Maybe after I catch the first wave while surfing at the beach, or maybe after I watch my kid go big on his favorite jump line, I’ll rediscover my stoke for outdoor adventure. Until then, I guess there’s always tubing. That sounds okay. Sitting in a river with a couple of beers and letting the current take me. That’s restful. I’ll start with tubing and see where it goes. But don’t expect me to paddle. I’m just gonna float my way out of this COVID hangover. 

Cover photo: After a long year filled with camping and biking, the author can’t muster the energy for an adventurous summer.