Why you're so goddamn exhausted right now.

Three things have happened this week that have made me realise we’re in a new phase. All of us.

We did our first live Mamamia Outloud show in Orange for our tour - the first we’ve done since 2019. We were out of practice but much fun was had by all. There were some dramas but none of them were COVID-related.

Two nights later, I went to an engagement party - my son’s - and there were more than 100 of us in a room with lots of close-talking and no masks. Not even the oldest (96) among us. The scrambling that happened at the last minute to change the venue was weather-related, not COVID-related. Nice change.

A couple of nights after that, we had our annual Upfronts presentation where we do a show-and-tell for advertisers and agencies about Mamamia and 300 people came.  

It’s the first time since 2019 that we’ve done it in person and during drinks before and afterwards, everyone I spoke to talked about having just returned from holidays and how burnt out they were feeling.

But why burnt out? With life returning to normal and COVID iso restrictions being lifted from tomorrow, shouldn’t we be feeling exhilarated? No. Well, yes but there’s a very good reason why so many of us are feeling like we’ve hit a wall of tired.

Since March 2020, we have all been in a state of fight-or-flight because our survival has been threatened. We’ve not done a global pandemic before. None of us had a forecast or a roadmap. We couldn’t pace ourselves. 


“This should be done in a few weeks,” we told ourselves at the start. And it took a long time to dawn that it was going to be months and then years until we could reclaim even a semblance of normality. There were some glimmers of hope and many false starts.

But just one year ago, many Australians, including me, were still in lockdown. Our kids weren’t at school. We couldn’t leave our LGAs. The incessant cycle of raised and dashed hope as we saw out new variants, borders opening and closing and schools doing the same… the level of alert became constant and remained high for years. YEARS.

And the thing with adrenaline is that it’s a very active state because it needs to be. When you are under threat, your survival depends on you being able to think quickly, make fast decisions and move rapidly at a moment’s notice. Which was ironic given that for months at a time, we couldn’t leave our homes.

It’s not until we are confident that the danger has passed that our bodies slow down the release of adrenaline but only when it seems certain we won’t have to fight or flee whatever is threatening us.


It’s October 2022 and many of us are feeling shattered at a time when COVID appears to have receded and no longer presents a clear danger to our lives or our ability to live them in a normal, predictable way.


Shouldn’t we be partying? Holidaying? Leaning into all the things we leaned out of during the pandemic? No. Because being alert for years is exhausting and we are exhausted.

Mentally, physically, emotionally. 

Phenomena like The Big Quit and Quiet Quitting are just, I believe, manifestations of this exhaustion. 

For a long time, if you were lucky enough to still have a job, it was pretty much the only thing in your life. Take away every aspect of your life outside work, as COVID did in 2020, 2021 and much of 2022 and life was pretty grim and wildly unbalanced. The things we did during that time, the people we lived with, the foods we ate, the shows we watched (Tiger King, dear god) are all contaminated by the residue of living through a global trauma like we all did.

No wonder people want to leave their jobs and take sabbaticals from their partners.

It’s not necessarily that your job (or partner) sucks, just that you need new stimulation, new experiences, some space. Or maybe they do indeed, suck and you want out.

The post-COVID mental fatigue is real though. Everyone has it, even while we rejoice in being able to celebrate and gather and close-talk and dance again. Two things can be true. It’s not just you who feels like that... 

M xxxxx