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The Six-Month Wall

Stay healthy and hopeful.

I’ve been saying that and signing most of my emails that way since March. Early on, it seemed like an easy way to stay chipper through a couple of weeks of “flattening the curve.” Now, months later, I say it with a more sincere, deep sigh.

At the end of yet another recent Zoom meeting, AICPA CEO Barry Melacon closed with what he’s been closing with for the last several months: He reminded us to take care of ourselves and others during this extraordinary time. This time, though, he added, “The six-month wall is real.”

That made me pause. It has been more than six months. I use the term “hit the wall” often in the evening, when I can’t do one more thing. But what did Barry mean, that the “six-month wall” is real? So I did what anyone would do: I Googled it and found this article and this interview with insights from Dr. Aisha Ahmad.

Dr. Ahmad is a professor at the University of Toronto and a scholar of terrorism. During her research, she has endured many long-term assignments in hostile environments and even war zones. She is not a therapist or counselor, but she said there is something she can predict with great accuracy.

“The six-month mark in any sustained crisis is always difficult. We have all adjusted to this ‘new normal’ but might now feel like we're running out of steam. Yet, at best, we are only one-third of the way through this marathon. How can we keep going?” 

I think I can sum up her answer: Take a break and give yourself and others a break. If we do that, Dr. Ahmad said she can also predict when it will end. 

“It will break naturally in about four to six weeks if you ride it out. Of course, there are things we have to do. Work. Teach. Cook. Exercise. But just don't expect to be sparklingly happy or wildly creative in the middle of your wall. Right now, if you can meet your obligations and be kind to your loved ones, you get an A+.”

In a more recent Twitter stream, Dr. Ahmad said, “How can we take a little and give a little? The rest and respite we all crave is much easier to find when we work as a team.” 

I’ve been worried about our team. In yesterday’s all-staff check-in, I asked in an anonymous online poll what my colleagues are doing to take care of themselves. Some shared things like exercising, resting, shopping, and staying away from the news. But less than half didn’t respond at all and one simply thanked me for the reminder. 

Consider this your reminder. 

The good news? We are past the six-month mark and we can scale the wall — together. The struggle is real. The six-month wall is real. But the hope is real, too.

What are you doing to stay healthy and hopeful?


Jackie Brown