It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since we entered the COVID-19 Pandemic. At the time, many of us were thinking it would be a two-week to a month shut down to flatten the curve. As each month passed, reality set in that this was our new (hopefully temporary) normal. Many of my therapy sessions lately have been reflective over the past year: exploring all of the ups and downs, the various feelings, and just simply how unbelievable it all seemed at the beginning.
After the winter we had, we are all feeling the exhaustion of the mental and emotional rollercoaster this past year has been. Not only have we been living through a global pandemic, but our country also faced racial tensions, class tensions, and a polarizing presidential election. Working parents have had to adjust their schedules to work from home AND essentially homeschool their children while others completely lost their jobs. Healthcare workers and employees of various essential businesses continued to work through the most uncertain times, putting their lives at-risk each day. No matter your situation or beliefs, this year has been challenging!
Over the past few months, some of the most common reports of pandemic fatigue I have heard are lack of motivation, social anxiety, boredom, disinterest in activities, irritability, and low energy. Some of this may be connected to previously diagnosed mental health conditions, but not always.
As the weather warms up and as vaccines are rolling out, there is light at the end of the tunnel. However, we still have some time before we are fully back to “normal.” There will be many months ahead where restrictions will still be in place. The fear is not going to disappear overnight. Finding peace-of-mind may be a struggle. If you are experiencing pandemic fatigue or any other symptoms for that matter, here are some tips to help:
- Stay focused in the present. Being mindful is a consistent suggestion from many fields (psychology, medicine, philosophy). That is because the more we are present in the moment, the less anxiety, depression, and overall negative emotions we experience. Years of research supports this including positive health outcomes with regularly practiced mindfulness strategies. Throughout this year, it has been hard not to look back and ahead, which can cause stress. Practicing simple mindfulness activities can help. Check out these simple exercises to start: https://www.mindful.org/take-a-mindful-moment-5-simple-practices-for-daily-life/
- Be hopeful about the future. This may sound contradictory to the above suggestion of being focused in the present. But remember that BOTH can be true. Although it might seem difficult right now, there is a lot to look forward to over the next few months. The weather is warming up which means more opportunities to see people safely outdoors. Vaccines are rolling out which means potential for life to get back to normal. Job opportunities are increasing in various fields. What is one thing you can plan or look forward to?
- Continue healthy habits or create a new one. If you already have your self-care strategies down, keep it up! If not, what is one healthy habit you can incorporate into your life? Start with one, then you can add others as time goes on.
- Find a new hobby. Is there something that you have always wanted to try, but life is too busy to make time for it? Now might be a good time to start dabbling into something new. Finding a new hobby can bring some motivation and interest back into your weeks.
- Spend time with people, even if it is virtually. Plan to spend time with friends and family safely. Some of us are comfortable seeing people we trust or in our bubble in person, others are not. Plan something that all parties are comfortable with whether that be a video hangout, a hike, or a meet-up at a park.
Do you find yourself doing okay, but those around you are struggling? Here are some additional tips to help loved ones:
- Be a stable support. If you have a loved one struggling, one of the best things you can do is just be there. Schedule weekly check-ins through phone, text, or video chat. Let that person know you are there. Maybe even suggest the above tips 🙂
- Plan things together. What can you safely do together? Socially distanced walks, video hangouts, or simple phone calls are a few suggestions.
- Normalize, normalize, normalize! We are all in this together! Make sure your loved one knows they are not alone and what they are experiencing is normal.