Pandemic Fatigue: Do You Have It?
It’s been over 20 weeks that our world has been dealing with the pandemic. What began with fear, confusion, stress, and worry pertaining to the novel virus has morphed into a new world "normal" that our psyche was not prepared for. Our bodies and minds are not built to feel as though the current world we are living in is "normal." No matter your age, we have all been tremendously impacted by the pandemic.
Living in a pandemic
The overall impact of the pandemic for each individual is vast and different. To begin, COVID-19 is truly frightening due to the threat this virus causes to our health and the health of those around us. That can complicate the emotional impact in many ways. There are those that feel angry and frustrated with those who don’t share the same beliefs. There is anxiety related to the unknowns and uncontrollable’s associated with a diagnosis of COVID-19, school decisions, sporting events, childcare, safe workplace environments, and the impact on those in assisted living situations (just to name a few).
Further, there are some that have found themselves quite comfortable. For example, some patients with gastrointestinal conditions have reported decreased anxiety with less socialization or need to leave their homes. No need to worry about where the nearest bathroom is when it is right down the hall. Therefore, it is safe to say wherever your emotions fall at any given moment of the day, they are valid.
Whatever you are feeling, is okay!
What we are now faced with is the reality that “pandemic fatigue” has settled in and we are in this for the long haul.
What is pandemic fatigue?
The acknowledgment and understanding that the pandemic is not going away and we are all at risk for significant impact. Symptoms may include:
Initial practices at the onset of the pandemic
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was early awareness that this could have an impact on one’s mental health. Psychologists, including myself, encouraged our patients, colleagues, friends, and loved ones to be aware of your emotions, recognize those emotions are valid in this difficult and unprecedented time, practice good self-care, and reach out for help if needed.
Some took this time to learn new hobbies or embrace the unplanned family togetherness. But as time has gone on, many recognized that perhaps their emotional and physical capacity for new hobbies or seeking self-actualization through newly established meditation routines have run dry. And guess what, that is not surprising. We are still living in a pandemic. We are faced with daily challenges that we have never been faced with before. Therefore, our physical and emotional energy must be devoted at times to taking things hour by hour or day by day.
What can we do to manage pandemic fatigue?
1. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?
Allow yourself space to feel those feelings. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, “Those feelings are real and valid no matter what they are!”
2. Focus on what is within your control.
- Getting a good night of sleep. Try to maintain a structured bedtime routine. Avoid screens in the hours leading up to bed.
- Set a goal of getting fresh air each day and some form of exercise. A long walk outside hits both goals as well as boosts mood and endorphins.
- Eat well. Allow yourself grace when it comes to making meals, getting take out, or even occasional fast food. If you are exhausted from your day, give yourself a break if you need it by choosing something easy. If you are experiencing GI distress, seek out meals that are calming to your belly.
3. Engage in social connection.
While we must continue to social distance, summer and fall are ideal for outdoor activities where distance can be maintained, but you can connect with another person or small groups of people.
Resume those Zoom or Facetime dates that perhaps you were doing more frequently at the beginning of the pandemic.
4. Reach out for help if you are struggling.
Remember, it won't always be this way! We are resilient beings. Be kind to yourself and others!
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