After months of dealing with the fallout from COVID-19, many people have pandemic fatigue. It’s a very real feeling of exhaustion stemming from the effects of the novel coronavirus on your life — from stay-at-home orders to the fear of getting ill to losing jobs.
It’s perfectly normal to feel burned out right now. It’s also important to stay the course and slow the spread of coronavirus. Read on to learn what you can do to feel better while staying safe.
What Is Pandemic Fatigue?
Wrestling with intense emotions day after day drains your energy, causing pandemic fatigue. The fatigue can stem from a number of emotions you’ve experienced during the pandemic, including:
Signs of Pandemic Fatigue
The hallmark sign of pandemic fatigue is a sense of inner weariness. You may also feel:
You may notice that you:
- Eat or sleep more or less than usual
- Have trouble focusing (brain fog)
- Feel edgy or nervous
- Snap at or argue with others
- Lack motivation
- Are unable to stop racing thoughts
- Withdraw from others
Healthy Ways to Cope
Adapting to the increased uncertainty of the pandemic is challenging. To reduce the toll it takes, it’s essential to pay attention to your emotional and physical needs. Take these steps to renew your energy and feel more in control:
#1: Take care of your body
When you’re wrapped up in what’s going on in the world and at home, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep (at least seven hours a night) and maintaining a nutritious diet. Though it may be difficult to drum up the motivation, exercising every day is important too. Doing these things will boost your energy, lift your mood and strengthen your immune system.
#2: Limit your news intake
It’s good to stay up to date on the latest coronavirus information. But too much news can overload you with negative emotions and zap your energy. Take a break from the news for a day or two and see if you feel better.
You can also limit your news consumption to once a day for an hour or less. And be sure to choose an accurate source of information, such as UCLA Health or your local news.
#3: Lower your stress
Focusing on activities that are calming or bring you joy can lower your stress level — whether that’s cooking a fancy meal or bird watching or practicing meditation for 15 minutes a day. Anything that offers you stress relief can be helpful. Activities to consider include:
- Breathing exercises
- Nature walks
- Watching a comedy
#4: Connect with others
Humans are social creatures by nature. Being alone and feeling isolated can be stressful. So it’s crucial to connect with others during the pandemic. Although you should limit your physical contact with people outside your household, there are other ways to connect socially. You can:
- Make phone calls
- Arrange video meetings
- Chat on social media
- Write letters
- Take a live class online
- Attend online religious services
#5: Accept your feelings
Challenging situations stir up a mix of emotions. Stuffing feelings down and ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. Instead, acknowledge and name your feelings. Allow yourself to have them.
Then refocus your mind and energy on things you can do to feel better. If your feelings are overwhelming or all-consuming — and getting in the way of your daily activities — reach out to a health care provider. Protecting your emotional health is just as important as caring for yourself physically.
#6: Try positive self-talk
Sometimes fear and anxiety can make our minds leap to the worst scenario, even if it’s most unlikely. You might become plagued with “what if” thoughts. Try catching those negative thoughts and replacing them with more realistic statements. For example, replace thoughts about acquiring COVID-19 with what you’re doing to stay safe.
#7: Create new traditions
Usher more joy into your days by creating new traditions. You’ll have something fun to look forward to and you might even decide to keep it up once the pandemic has passed.
For instance, you might set aside Sunday nights for self-care. Do anything that makes you feel good physically, mentally, or emotionally. You might focus on a hobby such as playing guitar or scrapbooking or do something for your body such as giving yourself a facial or going for a long run.
To socialize, you might make Friday your family movie night or picnic in the backyard every Saturday. You can also organize a video call with friends as a mid-week check-in. Be creative and come up with ideas that work best for you.
Check out helpful resources from UCLA Health including free guided meditations, sample meal plans and tips for starting an exercise program. If you have health concerns, consider scheduling a video visit with a doctor. And check with a doctor if you have COVID-19 symptoms.