“I feel like I’m getting grinded down. I’m starting to lose my resilience,” a friend said to me today when we stopped to chat 6 ft apart with masks, both on evening walks with our dogs. We talked about how we each were faring in the pandemic.
We are collectively still in a battle with Covid-19. Unless you are under a rock, you likely know someone whose life has been touched by this virus in some way involving health, the general stress of months of the unknown, economic uncertainty or even life lost. Now facing the steepest virus climb and fallout yet, people are stressed, preoccupied and exhausted. Many with vulnerabilities to anxiety or depression continue to be triggered. And those without such histories are also struggling emotionally in their own ways, all reasonable reactions to such an unusual ongoing event.
The need for us all to lower our shoulders and exhale deeply is profound. But though the tunnel is dark, there is light ahead. We just need to get there.
Pandemic fatigue is legitimate no matter what lens you are viewing it through. Whether you are in survival mode at one end of the continuum or fortunate to have health, financial means and safe shelter at the other, the coronavirus experience has been long and painful. It will continue to be so, we are told. And if you are a frontline healthcare worker, I can’t even imagine the kind of fatigue you must be feeling. (A deep and reverent bow. Thank you.)
If you feel worn down and tired, there are some ways you can keep your forward momentum. No matter who you are or what your story is, the following suggestions are accessible to all as they come from effort within you and not externally.
Combat pandemic fatigue in the following ways:
>Stay meaningfully connected. We need each other to get through this thing. Reach out to the people you care about and have authentic check-ins. When you ask “how are you?” – mean it and invite an honest response. A silver lining is in some cases people are connecting on a deeper level as they navigate through. Allow yourself to share candidly too. Social masks have lost their meaning as we legitimately need each other now. Just the act of connecting will be naturally energizing.
>Identify the self care rituals that work for you. Maybe it’s adequate sleep, a good book, meditation, getting outside in nature or cooking. Get very familiar with the things that bring you joy and inspiration. Self care should not be optional, especially now. Doing things that feel good to you will help you generate some happy chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, and even for a few moments provide a welcome distraction. Practicing self care when you can will help keep your head above water when it feels like you’re drowning.
>Reset your routine. One of the most helpful tools for my therapy clients, those in my life and for me personally, is to have a routine in place. If you had one but lost it or need to mix it up, start by creating lists of what would be helpful for you to do regularly. Having things on your calendar (whether “musts” like work or choice driven activities) can help create structure around your life. Think of it like your own safety container in which to counter feeling out control. It’s especially helpful for those who feel paralyzed or uninspired by days and weeks seeming to bleed into each other. Routines can bring new energy in where it feels mundane, especially if you throw in a few new things to try.
>Widen the lens. It’s easy to get fixated on your small world within the bigger one. After all, it’s how you’re engaging in life on a daily basis. And if you’re over-consuming the news, it can be depressing and energy sucking. (You might want to look at that.) If you work hard to see the bigger picture of this story unfolding, there is good news with vaccines rolling out. The hope is that we are slowly making our way towards the light we spoke of earlier. Spend some time thinking about what “the light” means to you. Will you be able to operate your business and can imagine the customers coming back? Will you be finally taking that vacation you’ve put off for months? Will you be able to hug and embrace anyone you want without fear and trepidation?
Yes, pandemic fatigue is legit. You got this.
If you need additional support, there are therapists ready to help across the country. If in California, learn more about my online therapy practice at CaliforniaOnlineTherapyAndCounseling.com. If you’re elsewhere in the U.S, see the Psychology Today Directory.1