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Pandemic fatigue – do you have it and what you can do about it


09 June 2021
 

Pandemic fatigue describes the feeling of exhaustion and burnout we’ve reached after over a year of having our lives turned upside down by the COVID-19 virus. It’s a very real feeling brought on by the effects of the pandemic on our life including restricted activity, limited social life, hyper-vigilance and exhaustive virtual interaction.

It’s understandable that we’re all feeling tired of the limits that have been placed on our lives. We’re tired of wearing masks, disinfecting, physical distancing, being away from family and friends, and increasingly fed up with the “new normal” routines. We don’t know when life will return to “normal” or if life after the pandemic will ever return to “normal.” Although vaccines have given us hope, all those months of stress and uncertainty have taken a toll on our emotional health.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines pandemic fatigue as a “lack of motivation to follow health protocols which develops slowly over time as an expected and natural response to a prolonged public health crisis.”

The WHO believes that more than half of the world’s population is experiencing pandemic fatigue which can lead to careless behaviours and a sharp rise in cases. For example, you may find yourself becoming less concerned about wearing a mask in public and maintaining proper handwashing. Or you could be less careful about social distancing practices. 

While it manifests itself in various ways, there are some common signs that signal you may be experiencing pandemic fatigue.

  • Being stressed out by everyday things that you once easily handled
  • Sleeping properly yet still feeling exhausted
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Eating or sleeping more or less than usual
  • Having difficulty concentrating (brain fog)
  • Disliking hobbies or things you once enjoyed
  • Feeling nervous, edgy, and unmotivated
  • Becoming more argumentative or snapping at others
  • Struggling with racing thoughts
  • Retreating from people you care about
  • Consuming more food, substances or alcohol


Health experts believe that our next pandemic challenge could be flattening the mental health curve so it’s important for us to keep our well-being in check. If you feel like you’re battling pandemic fatigue, stay the course with these coping tips. 

Be kind to yourself as you are trying to adjust to this ever-changing challenge. This is a difficult time for everyone. Don’t put yourself down if you’ve gained a few extra pounds during lockdown or haven’t exercised as much as you did pre-pandemic. Remember, if you don't discover a new hobby, learn a new language or get a jump start on fitness goals, it’s OK. Dealing with a pandemic is enough of an accomplishment.
Mindful activities can help lower your stress levels and improve your mood; whether that’s yoga, mindful breathing exercises or practicing meditation for 15 minutes a day. 
Make sure you clock in an adequate amount of sleep, have a nutritious diet, and exercise whenever possible. This will not only lower your stress levels as well as help boost your mood and energy, but also your mental well-being.
Even in times of stress and uncertainty, it is important to take time off to recover and recharge. This may seem odd when there is nowhere to go on holiday, but even a few days to relax can help re-energize. Read that book that has been on your reading list for months or go for a long walk in the countryside. 
Although you still need to limit physical contact with people outside your household, there are other ways you can connect socially. Phone calls, video chats, social media, letter-writing, online classes and even outdoor visits with family and friends.
Continue to follow a schedule including a consistent mealtime, exercise time, bedtime and wake-up time as much as possible. With so many things outside your control, keeping a simple routine will add some degree of predictability and security to your live.
Although the vaccine is being distributed and more people are being vaccinated, we still need to continue to wear our masks and practice social distancing, while restrictions are in place.