The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruption in our lives and livelihoods. As we close in on a year of the pandemic, many are experiencing what medical experts call “pandemic fatigue.” When it first hit, we banded together and there was a sense of community. But after prolonged stress, many individuals are becoming tired of being uncertain, worn out from being cautious, sick of being isolated, and tired of being scared. We’re worn out dealing with the pandemic, some of us more than others.
“Pandemic fatigue is a natural and expected response to the ongoing distress that we’re all feeling,” says Elizabeth Hill, Supervisor of Rehab Services at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health. “Feelings of exhaustion and demotivation.
While the FDA recently granted emergency use authorization for two COVID-19 vaccines, giving us hope for an end to the pandemic, the vaccine isn’t available to the general public just yet. It’s estimated the general public won’t be able to start receiving the vaccine until spring/summer 2021. So medical experts are offering advice to ease one’s pandemic fatigue.
Can Isolation Lead to Depression?
Despite online conveniences and virtual connectedness, there are a lot of lonely people. One in five Americans say they feel lonely or socially isolated. And it hurts. Loneliness poses a greater threat to health than obesity. It can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Research suggests loneliness impairs health by raising levels of stress hormones and triggering an inflammatory response, which in turn can increase the risk of heart disease, arthritis, type 2 diabetes and dementia, among other issues. Feeling lonely can also lead to anxiety and depression.
Ways of Coping with Pandemic Fatigue
- Create a (new) routine. The pandemic may have thrown our old routines off course and we may have had to adjust to working at home or helping our kids with online learning. This can shift our schedules but experts say it’s important to keep a routine day after day, such as the same bedtime and wakeup times each day. Setting daily goals can also help stick to that routine.
- Get up and move. Exercise is one of the best ways to cope and improve your well-being right now. Bundle up and head outside for a walk — even a short walk helps. Too cold outside? Try an online workout or dance class, yoga or stretching at home.
- Talk it out. Talk about your feelings with a trusted friend or family member. Staying connected to others will help you feel less isolated. Contact a professional counselor if needed.
- Practice gratitude. Gratitude can make you happier and connect with the goodness in the world. Write down 1-3 things that you’re grateful for each day. Send a text or email to let someone know that you appreciate them.
- Practice mindfulness. Moments of quiet reflection can help release tension. Take deep breaths, step outside and feel the cool air and sun on your face, snuggle up with a cherished pet, or savor a warm drink. Try mindfulness meditation apps like Calm or Headspace.
- Eat well and sleep well. A healthy diet and good sleep are vital to your well-being. Eat regular, well-balanced meals and try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day. Strive for 8-10 hours of sleep a night.
- Help others. Check on neighbors and friends by calling, texting or writing a card. Donate food to the frontline workers at your local hospital — call first to find out what’s allowed, packaging requirements, etc. Donate grocery items to your local food pantry for community members in need. Helping others can be good for your own health.
- Find things to look forward to. This can boost your mood. Plan for a socially distanced walk with a friend, a night to watch your favorite movie or new TV series or a video Zoom call with friends. Avoid things that trigger stress for you, such as too much social media or news intake.
- Accept COVID-19 precautions. They aren’t going away anytime soon, even with a vaccine on the horizon. Make wearing a mask, washing your hands often and social distancing a normal part of your routine. It can help you better adapt to the situation.
- Take it day by day. Try not to look too far down the road and become overwhelmed with the big picture. You don’t need to have all the answers right now. Simplify daily goals into manageable ones. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can.
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