“Look at all these beautiful bodies,” the instructor shouted over the music. The beat of the song made my whole body vibrate as the bass swelled in a rhythmic crescendo. I concentrated on the instructor’s movements, mimicking the flawlessly choreographed blend of international dance. All around me, bodies gyrated, a wave of arms swinging in unison, and joyful shouts echoing off the gym walls.
I swallowed hard, blinking away tears. It felt as though I was giving my body a chance to catch up to the sadness I’d been suppressing throughout the pandemic. I had recently dusted off my gym membership after the worst of the lockdowns, and it was my first in-person Zumba class in almost two years. I had forgotten what it was like to dance in rhythm with a roomful of people, and months of tension melted away with each boom of the bass.
“Burnout” is a tame descriptor of what many of us have been coping with since early 2020—an overwhelming feeling of “drowning” may better exemplify our collective experience. I’ve faced job loss, a long search for work in a global pandemic, and the unattainable balancing act of working from home and parenting my kids through virtual school. Other people I know have worked as nurses in packed ICUs, faced delayed cancer treatments, grieved loved ones without funerals, and endured financial insecurity.