A few nights ago, I was on my way home from work, and I realized I needed file folders. It was no big deal. The time was only 6:12PM and my local Staples was just a few blocks from my house. I made a left turn and headed to the store. It hadn’t been a particularly trying day, but it hadn’t been an exceptionally stellar one, either. When I pulled into an empty parking lot at 6:30 and saw the “closed early due to staffing” sign, I put my head in my hands and started sobbing uncontrollably. It wasn’t just the file folders at that point. It was all the stores for the past six months that had been closed when I had gotten there. It was every time I went to a restaurant, and they were out of an ingredient to make my favorite dish or beverage. It was every sniffle I had gotten wondering if it was COVID, every mask I’d left in my vehicle and had to walk back for, every three-hour-wait for a COVID test, every slight inconvenience that has been brought on by this pandemic had all converged at that moment, and I lost it. Quite frankly, I’m a little surprised it took almost two years for me to have a pandemic – related meltdown.
The fact of the matter is that after two years of ever-changing minor inconveniences along with new variants, and new information constantly emerging, my experience in the Staples parking lot is quite normal. It’s so normal there’s a name for it. It is called Pandemic Fatigue, and there is a good chance that you or someone you know is dealing with it right now. We are going to dive deeper into it, but put simply, Pandemic Fatigue is exhaustion from the change of life we have all been experiencing. (Millard et al., 2021) We will look at some symptoms of Pandemic Fatigue as well as some way some ways to cope with it. All hope is not lost. We’re all in this thing together.
One indicator of Pandemic Fatigue is feeling overly cynical. Many people feel this way regarding the pandemic, specifically. We are referring to the outlook on life in general. If you, or someone close to you has an overall bleak or cynical outlook on life and views everything very negatively right now, they may be experiencing some Pandemic Fatigue (Stanborough, 2021).
If you are getting enough sleep, but are constantly feeling exhausted, you may be experiencing some Pandemic Fatigue (Winch, 2020). Another symptom is perpetual exhaustion. It doesn’t seem to matter how much rest an individual to gets; they are always tired when experiencing Fatigue from the COVID pandemic.
Being less effective on the job, or experiencing burnout is another sign that Pandemic Fatigue may be setting in. Burnout happens when you run out of your own personal resources, and it feels that there just isn’t enough of you to go around (Stanborough, 2021). So, for example, you’re out of energy, time, patience, and/or motivation. All or any of these could indicate burnout. The less fuel we have to run on, the more we begin to doubt ourselves and get in our own heads. The more we get in our own heads, the less attention we pay to detail at places like work, and the more mistakes we make. This cycle typically leads to self-doubt low feelings of self-worth.
Mood can also be affected by Pandemic Fatigue. You may find yourself with less patience. You could be irritable and find that things are upsetting you that probably wouldn’t otherwise. (Winch, 2020) You may lash out unexpectedly when it is not in your character to do so. Irritability is the key with this particular symptom. Experiencing a lot of anxiety about the future is another symptom of Pandemic Fatigue. This could mean either your own future or the future in general (Stanborough, 2021). This may accompany feelings of hopelessness.
Finally, a part of Pandemic Fatigue is a decline in willingness to comply with health guidelines set forth by local and federal government health organizations. The longer the pandemic drags on, the less people are willing to put up with masks and social distancing (Winch, 2020). We must remember though, it is for the safety of not only ourselves, but of those around us.
It is important to note here that this is completely natural and normal given the current state of circumstances. Our minds and bodies have been operating out of fear and adrenaline for so long, we simply become exhausted and irritated. It makes sense. But it is important that we take care of ourselves. If we have reached the point of exhaustion and Pandemic Fatigue, there are ways to cope.
Coping With Pandemic Fatigue
Take Care of yourself
Being in survival mode for so long doesn’t necessarily lend itself to good self-care, mentally or physically(Render Turmaud, 2020). It is, however, important that we are taking the time for both. Make time for things like exercise and healthy eating, as well as self-soothing techniques like journaling, bubble baths, or working out. Our bodies can’t perform at its best unless we are putting the proper nutrition into it and giving our mind and body the proper maintenance. Think of your body like a vehicle. You wouldn’t skip routine maintenance on your car, would you? It may be helpful to set short-term goals for yourself in terms of your self-care to get yourself in a good routine. For example, if you want to start making time for yourself to read every night, make a short-term goal to read three nights per week to start. (Kendall, 2022)
Manage Your Stress
Stress is one of the fastest ways to feeling burned out and exhausted. Finding ways to keep your stress managed will help you stay focused on getting through the pandemic. There are multiple ways to lower stress, and you should find a way that you enjoy. Some popular options that many people find helpful are controlled breathing exercises, yoga practices, stretching, adult coloring books, reading going for walks, watching something funny. Anything you can do to relieve your stress will be beneficial to your feelings of burnout (UCLA Health, 2020).
Take some time away from social media. If your job allows you to do so, take time away from as many devices as possible. Try to avoid news outlets in particular. The point is to avoid sensationalism and negativity, of which there is plenty on social media and the news. When you are already feeling in a negative headspace, we don’t to feed into the negativity (Kendall, 2022).
Stick To Your Routines
During high times of stress, it can be easy to sway from our regular routines. That, however, is when we should be adhering to them the most! With all the uncertainty surrounding COVID, though, and information constantly changing, how can we hold to a steady routine when maybe we are working from home one month and the next month back in the office? When things around you start to get hectic, the best thing to do is chose which routines are most important for you to keep. What is going to benefit you the most by staying in place? Keep those things at all costs and let everything else fall how it may (Stanborough, 2021).
COVID-19 has taken its toll on America on numerous ways. Even if you have not been affected by the virus physically, certainly, you have been affected by the pandemic. People are tired. Pandemic Fatigue is a very real thing, and it is something to keep an eye on. The longer the pandemic drags on, the more people will become tired. We all need to be taking care of ourselves.
A Word from Willow
It Is important to note that if some of the symptoms mentioned above persist for longer than six months, this can indicate that there may be underlying issues. Willow recommends contacting a mental health professional for assistance. Take care of yourself. We are all in uncharted territory.
7 steps to reduce pandemic fatigue. UCLA Health. (2020, July 7). Retrieved January 12, 2022, from https://connect.uclahealth.org/2020/07/07/7-steps-to-reduce-pandemic-fatigue/
Kendall, J. (2022). Six coping strategies to combat pandemic fatigue. Six Coping Strategies to Combat Pandemic Fatigue | Vanderbilt Faculty & Staff Health and Wellness. Retrieved January 12, 2022, from http://www.vumc.org/health-wellness/resource-articles/six-coping-strategies-combat-pandemic-fatigue
Millard, E., Upham, B., Landau, M. D., Cassoobhoy, A., Rauf, D., & Kaufman, P. (2021, February 18). How to not let pandemic fatigue turn into pandemic burnout. EverydayHealth.com. Retrieved January 12, 2022, from http://www.everydayhealth.com/coronavirus/how-to-not-let-pandemic-fatigue-turn-into-pandemic-burnout/
Render Turmaud, D. (2020, June 30). Why survival mode isn't the best way to live | psychology ... Psychology Today. Retrieved January 12, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/lifting-the-veil-trauma/202006/why-survival-mode-isnt-the-best-way-live
Stanborough, R. J. (2021, October 18). Covid fatigue and burnout: How to cope. Healthline. Retrieved January 12, 2022, from http://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/covid-fatigue
Winch PhD, G. (2020, August 17). 10 signs you have pandemic fatigue and how to cope ... Retrieved January 12, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/202008/10-signs-you-have-pandemic-fatigue-and-how-cope