It has already been a year since the beginning of the health crisis caused by COVID 19. What was originally going to be just two weeks of confinement gradually became an almost endless situation. Months of confinement, locked up at home, with fear and uncertainty. And we still didn’t know what we were facing. Is there an actual risk? Is this just mass hysteria? Meanwhile, the news bombarded us with overwhelming information about risks, safety measures, social distancing, numbers and more numbers about the pandemic evolution, the “new normality” and its phases, and a long etcetera that we were listening to and trying to integrate into our everyday life.
And when it was over, what did we found? Restrictions, fears, social distancing, curfew and more uncertainty. A contradictory socio-political environment that we couldn’t understand and a return to life very far from normality. Who would have guessed that more than a year later, the word “PANDEMIC” would still have such strength, and that we would have dealt with not one or two, but three waves, and thinking about a fourth?
No doubt that this situation prolonged in time, and so unpredictable has an impact on us. The first days we were hesitant with the new safety measures. However, little by little we started to understand the importance of following all the protocols. Thanks to this, we felt some sort of control regarding our own protection and more responsibility towards others. However, a year after, the pandemic is still here and the safety protocols that we easily integrated (mask, hydroalcoholic solution, distances, quarantines, etc.) are more difficult to maintain. Without even noticing, they are fading away. The feeling of control and responsibility decreases, while our demotivation and tiredness arise.
This is what is called Pandemic Fatigue. The WHO defines this as “demotivation to follow recommended protective behaviours, emerging gradually over time and affected by a number of emotions, experiences and perceptions, as well as the cultural, social, structural and legislative environment.” According to Carlos III Health institute (ISCIII), data shows that while this situation continues, we are being more careless when following the safety protocols.
Today we are exhausted, and the strength and adaptability that we showed at first, is being lessened. Our coping mechanisms that were useful in those first months of the pandemic are diminishing, and now that we understand that there is no established end, our motivations decrease, leaving the door open to the Pandemic Fatigue.
Feeling Like You’ve Had It? Here’s What to Do About It
These suggestions won’t make COVID 19 go away, but they can help you to deal with it, making this path a bit easier for your emotional health.
1. Normalize how you feel
It’s already been a year with this situation. Exhaustion, sadness and stress are a natural outcome of the pandemic. We are experiencing a complete new and unexpected situation for everyone.
Analise if you are been too hard on yourself for feeling this way and try to accept and allow these unpleasant emotions. That is the key to start to minimize them.
2. Adjust your expectations
The pandemic it’s not a temporary break in our lives. For that reason, it’s important to adjust our expectations so as to be able to get involved in plans and projects adapted to the real possibilities of the situation we are living.
Stop postponing plans to “when the pandemic finishes” and star planning what you can do today. This will help you to connect with your interests, desires and to find motivation in your day to day.
3. Prioritize your selfcare
A lot has been spoken about doing exercise and eating healthy. And of course, this can help, but taking care of yourself is way beyond this. Apart from healthy habits, there are other types of selfcare: emotional (selfgratitude, managing stress, selfcompasion and positive search), social (be listened to, seek help, healthy relationships and affection) and cognitive (read, meditate, connect with nature, have time for yourself, etc.).
Prioritize taking care of yourself, because with everything that is happening around us it’s very easy to forget about our selfcare.
4. Have a break and allow yourself unproductive time
We need a psychological break. We need to allow ourselves to disconnect. Not only during holidays. Every day after work or assignments, try to disconnect and rest. You can either watch a comedy or just breathe deeply while you listen to the radio. It’s not unproductive time, resting is necessary to keep on going every day. The same way athletes understand that resting is part of their training, remember that, resting can be part of productivity for you too.
5. Leave time for rewarding activities
Enough of just working and studying. Life is much more than that and the pandemic hasn’t arrived to snatch that from us. Of course, it changed our way of living and our way to find enjoyment, but this is not an excuse. Surely there is something you can introduce in your schedule that can make you feel better.
You are the greatest expert on yourself, so as an expert you know what rewarding activities could work for you. Go for a walk, read, boardgames with cohabitants, play an instrument, handicrafts… Is there a personal project that you could start? Can you boost your creativity? Is there a forgotten hobbie that you can pick up with? And above all, don’t forget that is never too late to learn something new.
6. Limit the “infoxication” and avoid the same old story
COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID and COVID. You know what I’m talking about? Surely, you’ve heard something. If we aren’t careful, it is almost the only thing we talk about, and t the news that we are most interested in. No doubt that this is the main pandemic fatigue ingredient. Being informed is necessary, but an information overload can be very damaging to us producing more and more anxiety and fear.
Try to limit the time exposed to COVID news and, when spending time with others, talk about other topics and not the same old boring story that incites the pandemic to be the centre of our lives. What did we talk about before all this?
7. Connect with other people
As humans we are social creatures. Being alone and isolated goes against our nature and can have many damaging consequences to our mental health. For that reason, look for a way to be in contact with other people, following all safety measures. Safe distance does not mean social distance.
What could you do? Maybe it is a good time to teach you grandmother how to make a videocall. You can also meetup with people outdoors, look for outdoors activities such as hiking with friends or just go for a walk with someone. Of course, don’t forget that, if you are in quarantine, your mobile still exists. Call you friends or family and enjoy some time with them as if it were in person.
8. Create new traditions
If the pandemic has arrived to stay (for now), we will have to create new rituals and new traditions or activities that go well with it. During the first confinement, we created the 8p.m. applause “tradition”. Some created the “family videocall on Friday nights”, and others knew that Saturday morning was banana bread baking day. Fortunately, we are no longer locked up at home. But we can still keep on creating traditions that add to our lives some colour. For example, what about if the first Saturday of every month you try a new recipe? It can also be a good idea to save Wednesdays to watch a film with your cohabitants, and Thursdays to play boardgames.
Be creative and think of what new tradition or activity you would like to include into your new lifestyle.
Overall, pandemic fatigue is real, and it affects us all. If you find yourself in a situation where demotivation, fear and/or sadness seems to be far from your control, do not hesitate to ask for help. The professional health carers will be here to accompany you through this process. Feeling and showing vulnerability is also part of your strength.