“Is there such a thing as COVID fatigue? Because I’m pretty sure I’m suffering from it.” That’s the question I half-jokingly asked my friend recently. The truth is that I’ve been feeling an overwhelming lack of motivation, low energy and just exhausted lately. I’m having trouble concentrating and, I’m irritable. Was this just a case of boredom from being isolated with very little in-person interaction and no real sense of normalcy since March? Or was there something more going on.
Virus fatigue by many other name
Well, it turns out that COVID fatigue is a thing. Actually, I discovered that it goes by many names, pandemic fatigue, virus fatigue, crisis fatigue, social distancing fatigue or lockdown fatigue. Whatever you call it, it’s all referring to the same thing, the serious mental and physical impacts of a major ongoing crisis, in this case, the Covid19 coronavirus, on individuals.
What are the signs of pandemic fatigue?
We’re all dealing with a ton of stress and anxiety. Whether it’s worrying about returning to the workplace, trying to find a new job, whether your business will survive, how you’ll pay your rent or mortgage, worrying about your kids starting the school year or the safety of your mother in a long-term care home. To say we’re all dealing with a lot might be the biggest understatement of 2020 so far. The past seven months have felt and continue to feel like we’re in a perpetual state of anxiety and stress.
Some of the signs of pandemic fatigue are like other forms of fatigue including, worry, the lack of motivation, helplessness and frustration. As well as disruptions in our sleep, eating, mood, and having trouble concentrating.
We may also start relaxing and not being as careful as we once were over during the pandemic. For example, we may not vigorously clean the groceries before putting them away or disinfecting every surface in the house. Maybe we don’t maintain enough social distance when we’re meeting friends or family. It’s hard to not give hugs. We’re thinking, we’re so over this coronavirus. Over. It! Covid19 just needs to go away already (insert six eye roll emojis). Does this inner weariness sound familiar?
It’s normal to feel this way. As I talk to my friends, I’m relieved to learn I’m not alone, and neither are you. There are things you can do to help better cope when the days are feeling a little heavier than usual.
6 Tips for Coping with COVID Fatigue
1. Mindset Matters
First, recognize the signs. Stop and take stock of how you’re feeling. Really pay attention to this. Take a few minutes, sit down, close your eyes, inhale deeply and then exhale deeply. Do this a few times. Then write out what you’re feeling.
Then, check your mindset. Instead of focusing on the negative thoughts and feelings about the pandemic, social distancing and having to wear face masks all the time, flip the script. Try to think more positively. Think about the benefits that have come from following safety guidelines so far and how continuing to do so will be a benefit to you, your loved ones, others and your community.
2. Healthy Habits Count
Like having a positive mindset, making a daily habit of practicing gratitude can be helpful. Get a notebook out and for each day, write down three things you are grateful for.
Speaking of habits, make sure that safety practices like handwashing for 20 seconds become an ingrained part of your healthy lifestyle. Some people sing the birthday song during handwashing, or you can do like Will Ferrell and sing Drop it Like it’s Hot. Do you boo!
3. Stay Connected
My cousin and I FaceTime at least once a week since the stay at home orders were in place. Before lockdown, we would send text or DM on Instagram (she’s 24, so yeah, this is how we roll). But now, we use these chats as a way of regularly checking in on each other. It’s been great for my mental health and our relationship.
Talk with your family and friends about how they’re feeling and be present in the moment with them. That means no distractions. Now more than ever, it’s so important to reach out and connect with those we love or even old friends we haven’t heard from in a while.
Go ahead, schedule the phone calls, Skype, Zoom and FaceTime calls into your calendar and make those connections a regular part of your week.
4. Tune Out
Take the time to reduce information overwhelm from all the noise that comes at us every waking second of every day.
That might look like limiting the amount of news consumption to 30 minutes in the morning to check the headlines and the evening news. Also, setting a maximum limit on scrolling the infinite feeds on social media will help cut back on screen time.
This can help take the edge off any anxiety you might be experiencing even if you don’t ‘feel’ like you’re experiencing any at all.
5. Prioritize Selfcare
This is my favourite coping strategy. Making time to practice self-care is always a good return on investment. Selfcare practices don’t have to be about luxurious massages and manicures, although it could be if that’s your jam.
Recently, during Episode 2 of The Michelle Obama Podcast, Michelle Obama said she was suffering from some form of low-grade depression that she attributed to having to deal with the coronavirus lockdowns, the protests against racial injustice and the political climate in the US. She also talked about self-compassion, exercise and getting outside were helping her to cope.
Self-care is about finding an activity you enjoy that you will deliberately make time to do because it allows you to nourish yourself, mentally, emotionally and physically. Practice self-care your way.
6. Seek Help
Having a support system in family and friends and practicing self-care are great coping strategies for dealing with chronic stress, loneliness, burnout or weariness. However, in some cases, these strategies may not be enough.
The reality is we’re dealing with a historic pandemic, the likes of which the world has never had to deal with. Then, combine this with the many major economic, health, social, political and environmental catastrophes happening across the globe and the challenges we face in our communities and our everyday lives. The emotional, mental and physical toll this can have on a person may require more than self-care strategies to deal with.
Seeking help from a licensed professional counsellor or therapist may be a necessary coping strategy and can make a world of difference in your life. Therapy can provide the right opportunity to work through the complicated thoughts and emotions and dig deeper into exploring and understanding how pandemic fatigue, chronic stress and constant change are impacting your life, your work and your relationships. Therapy can be an investment in long-term health and wellness. It’s a good investment in you, and you’re worth it.
This post first appeared on The Swell Life Blog – Swell Made Co.