It’s taken me so long to write a blog post on covid fatigue, because well, I feel the fatigue too.
We all know we are living through a global health crisis. We keep hearing about it. Daily sometimes hourly. On the news, on radio, in our inboxes, and on our socials. All of this can take a toll on our physical and mental well-being.
As the weeks turn into months, with the constant threats of lockdowns and quarantine, it can leave us feeling a rollercoaster of emotions – from sadness and anger, tiredness, and feeling groggy.
There is so much uncertainty, we don’t know when circumstances will plunge us into another lockdown. With this looming threat of another lockdown always around the corner, all of the stress and worry slowly builds up.
Then it happens, we are in lockdown. For many of us, being in lockdowns means we are physically doing far less than we used to. We may not have to commute, maybe we get to sleep in a little, We’re generally a little less active. Yet, we can be left feeling exhausted and run down. But why?
This can be lockdown fatigue. Lockdown fatigue has been described as a state of exhaustion caused by the long-term impact of quarantining and isolation on life. When our bodies and minds are adapting to constant change and uncertainty, it’s natural to feel fatigued from trying to keep everything in life together. We have all heard the comments, ”we need to adjust to the new normal”. But how do you adjust to an ever-changing situation where the new normal is full of indefinite uncertainty? This can leave us feeling stressed, anxious or depressed. Anxiety, depression, and stress are exhausting by their nature. Anxiety feeds on uncertainty. We are living through some very uncertain times. The unknowns and what if’s seemed endless. All of this stress and adaption is causing not just mental fatigue, it is impacting us physically.
Some of the symptoms of lockdown fatigue that you may be experiencing include:
- Feelings of sadness and irritability
- Anxiety, fear, and panic
- Physical exhaustion and burnout
- Difficulty focusing, concentrating, prioritising, problem-solving, and making decisions
- Lack of motivation and reduced interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Difficulty in maintaining a routine
- Difficulty sleeping. You may have too little or too much. Most of us will be feeling a degree of anxiety and it is likely to affect the quality and duration of our sleep
So why does this happen? Why does our body feel tired when we’re not doing that much?
When we face psychological stressors, our bodies have a physiological response. Yep, that’s right, our body has a physical response to psychological stress.
We enter a fight or flight response. Our body makes hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare the body for emergency action. Our heart pounds faster, our muscles tighten, our blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and our senses become sharper. This is great if you need to run away from a threat. However, what happens if this stretches out indefinitely? If you’re in this state for delays, weeks, or months? This can lead to lockdown fatigue.
How to deal with lockdown fatigue
This current lockdown will eventually be over, but the effects may remain for some of us for a while.
So here are some tips to think about over the coming weeks.
- Improve your sleep: Try to go to bed at around the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning. Leave your phone and other devices out of the bedroom.
- Be kind to yourself / self-compassion: Accept the fact that’s ok not to feel ok right now. It’s ok that you can’t be productive. It’s ok to feel tired, sad, anxious or frustrated. Try not to be critical or judge yourself.
- Exercise and eat well: moving your body is one of the best ways to help your body cope with the physiological effects of stress. Try moving several times a day, go for a walk, have a little dance, do some star jumps, anything you can to get your body moving.
- Create a routine: Create a routine for your sleep, meals, work, rest, and exercise. If you like to go for an afternoon walk and grab a coffee, try and replicate this at home, maybe you make one and drink it on a walk, maybe there’s a cafe nearby for take away. Try and have some routine to structure your day.
- Stay connected: Make an effort to stay connected, using the most of technology. Calling people, video calling, whatever you can try and stay connected.
- Relax: yes, even though you’re not feeling productive, you still need to make time to relax. To lower the stress levels. Set aside some time in your day for the things you enjoy, reading, cooking, gardening, playing games, or doing puzzles, craftwork, etc
- Seek professional help: It may be time to chat to a GP to check there are no underlying health issues that may need to be addressed and to discuss the option of speaking to a mental health professional.
by Marie Vakakis
Accredited Mental Health Social Worker and Clinical Family Therapist