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The symptoms and side effects of COVID-19 are well known, with scientists all over the world having long studied the disease that’s been plaguing our lives for the last two years. But there’s one side effect that isn’t very well documented and that almost everyone has experienced, whether they have caught the virus or not. It seems that, even more widespread than COVID-19, people everywhere feel the need to lie down for a bit. I’m being satirical, of course, but I sincerely do find myself having a newfound need to take a break in between tasks, and have gathered that I’m not the only one suffering from this new “side effect” of the pandemic. 

Granted, everyone needs a rest sometimes, or maybe even a little nap here and there — but this is more than being tired: it’s being physically and mentally exhausted by minor tasks. Before COVID-19 hit, my days were absolutely full, with “busy” barely covering it. I somehow fit what felt like days’ worth of class, practices, appointments and activities into 24 hours. My life was going 100 mph at all times; I didn’t take breaks because I simply didn’t have time for them. 

Then the lockdowns started. Rather quickly, the entire world came to a stop. And it became the pause in life that I had so desperately needed. Government orders to stay inside and do nothing for two weeks? You didn’t have to tell me twice. At first, so used to the daily chaos of life, I didn’t know what to do with myself. With nowhere to be, I did a lot of lying down during this time. “A nice rest,” I thought before things picked back up and I again had no time to rest. But the pandemic continued, and the lockdowns were extended, until suddenly life had been paused for not just two weeks but two years. 

I stopped lying down to rest and started lying down because there was nothing else to do. I was bored. Suddenly, everything was exhausting. After each Zoom class I needed a rest. Then making lunch became tiresome, and soon I found that even lying down tired me out, so that too required a rest afterward. I watched the seasons change from my windows and saw an entire year pass from the walls of my bedroom. 

I was torn, desperately wishing the world to function as it once did but at the same time fearing the high speeds it moved at. I had begun to enjoy my slow life and wondered if, like an athlete who had taken time off, I would struggle to get back in the game. 

As more time passed, I, along with everyone else, eventually returned to the life that was halted. As anticipated, the quick-paced demands of life were difficult to adjust to. I threw myself back into the swing of things, forcing myself through the motions until it felt normal again. Through the change, my newly acquired habit stuck with me. Although I have, for the most part, gone back to the “normal” life I lived before the pandemic, I still frequently find myself needing to lie down for a while. I need a break in between tasks to stop, process and then mentally prepare for the next engagement, one I didn’t need before.

It seems that I’m not the only one experiencing this post-pandemic need. I’ve observed its presence socially, in my roommate’s blank stare at her dinner she prepared 10 minutes ago and my brother’s declaration that he’s “going to go do nothing for a while.” I notice it at school, on my peers’ faces during the two-minute mental breaks given to us by our professor. I see it in the work field, with continued remote work offering a more manageable lifestyle for so many people. 

This change not only accommodates me and my little habit, but also offers relief in a world that is increasingly fast-paced. Previously, our capitalistic, productivity-driven society rarely allowed for any rest at all, even though people like myself felt that they needed it. While I suspect that as COVID-19 fades so will our break time, I have hope that society has found a new appreciation of the slow life, and that we will offer understanding to one another for the need for personal time. It’s important to pause, even just for a few minutes. 

Amy Edmunds is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at amyedmun@umich.edu