Mental Health//

Why Pandemic Fatigue is Tiring Us out

It's official. Pandemic fatigue is the biggest mental health crisis as lethargy and exhaustion grip people taking them to a breaking point.

Photo by Yogendra Singh/ Unsplash
Photo by Yogendra Singh/ Unsplash

Pandemic exhausted? Are you feeling vulnerable? With no end to the pandemic in sight, coronavirus fatigue is gripping everyone. We are eight months into the pandemic, one thing the current coronavirus pandemic has done is heighten our sense of vulnerability. Are you waking up feeling tired, overwhelmed? 

According to Psychology Today, suddenly we are all too aware of how fragile everything is — our health, our jobs, our institutions, our way of life. The pandemic has forced us to contemplate difficult and scary eventualities. More so, for months now. In doing so, it has wormed its way into a deep groove in our psychological architecture. We are, it turns out, biologically predisposed to notice threats and to home in on trouble. Pandemic fatigue is leaving people tired and numb.

They say, in a dangerous environment, the vigilant survive. Welcome to the world of pandemic fatigue. Experts warn the next pandemic challenge will be to “flatten the mental health curve”. There’s no sign of the end of the pandemic. People are tired of waiting, coping and endless fear. Social isolation has made it worse. Moving into autumn, the onset of gloomy and cold winter weeks away, is a further dampener on the spirits. Older adults are feeling the fatigue as patience runs out. Says psychiatrist Dr Sagar Mundada from Mumbai, “Chronic psychological stress can also emerge when we experience the demands of any situation as exceeding our coping resources for a long period of time. Our nerves are more fragile now, we get tired more easily. Pandemic fatigue is real, patience is running out.”

There’s over and under stimulation. Being locked in, not living normal lives — isn’t giving us enough stimulation, or the social media is putting our minds in overdrive. Jessy Warner-Cohen, a senior psychologist said recently, “There is an overstimulation from constant information influx and uncertainty as to what will come from this information, and this is tiring. There is also fatigue associated with a lack of stimulation. Being in the same environment. People are both in an under stimulated and overstimulated state, and both can result in negative impacts on mood.”

You might be feeling pandemic fatigue if:

* You have feelings of detachment or apathy

* A high level of dissatisfaction

* A reduced sense accomplishment

* Reduced performance at work or home

* Emotional exhaustion

* Increased levels of irritability

Harvard Medical School researchers have identified four stages of crisis fatigue:

* Heroic Stage: There’s optimism and energy to overcome the pandemic.

* Honeymoon Stage: All individuals feel that they are “in the same boat” as others who are also taking the same steps necessary for survival.

* Disillusionment Stage: Individuals begin to feel physically and emotionally exhausted. Hypervigilance now turns into irritation.

* Fatigue Stage:  This is the burnout by endless waiting, which can cause a person to be easily triggered or completely withdrawn. 

These feelings of fatigue are heightened when we don’t have any good news outlet. The supply of bad news in our times of information overload is incessant and ongoing, and thus our feelings of vulnerability are intense and huge. Here are some ways to cope with pandemic fatigue:

* Express your feelings: Create an emotional outlet. Write, create art, put your experience into words. Do not suppress your feelings as this will only amplify.

* Have a feel-good hour: Create a daily structure. The pandemic has disrupted our daily routine. Many people are working from home or have lost their jobs. We no longer drop off our kids at school or have evening extracurricular activities. Pamper yourself with a feel-good hour, where you enjoy that coffee, talk to that friend, or go for a walk. Try waking up and going to bed around the same time. Try to differentiate weekdays from weekends by scheduling special activities on weekends.  It’s not only okay to take time out to do something that brings you pleasure, it’s actually a really important way to help us rebalance and re-energise.

Work in some physical activity into your routine, outdoors for sometime if possible. Photo by Ev/ Unsplash

* Practise self-care: Make this a high priority now. We know even this has fatigued you out. The wait is endless, keep motivating yourself into self-care.It is an act of self-preservation. Exercise, meditate, create art, journal your thoughts and reading. Pick an activity that you find invigorating.

* Spend time outdoors. Natural daylight can help reset your body’s natural sleep patterns. Outdoor activities also can reduce stress and help you regain focus for the rest of the day’s tasks.

* Don’t get into an isolation zone or go underground: Reach out. Reach out to others. Create your mentors, people who lift you up.

* Unplug from social media. Those endless hours of looking at your mobile or social media, being on the laptop, many people are reporting fatigue and eye strain.

 * Manage your personal and professional expectations. If you don’t discover a new hobby, write that novel or create a new strategy for the company, that’s fine. Dealing with a pandemic is enough of an accomplishment.

* Caring also brings compassion fatigue: Putting yourself out for family and others, listening to others problems also tires you out. Balance out your own energies, replenish yourself.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- Marcus Aurelius

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