Cast your mind back to the start of the pandemic. Many of us braced for temporary hardship before a return to normal. Few would have imagined that 2022 would have seen us entering The Pandemic: Year 3. Now, many of us may be experiencing pandemic fatigue. Pandemic fatigue is exactly what it sounds like – we’re fed up of the threat of illness, we’re fed up of restrictions, we miss our old life and we want things to go back to ‘normal’ NOW. Pandemic fatigue is also associated with depression, demotivation, irritability, boredom and an increased desire to ignore health and safety precautions. So, what can we do feel better?
“After I get vaccinated, life will go back to normal.” “After we get Delta under control, life will go back to normal. “After we get Omicron under control, life will go back to normal.” What do all of these statements have in common? They create expectations based on circumstances that we cannot control. And, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Of course, if we get vaccinated, then we are protecting ourselves against COVID. But there is no guarantee that this action will mean that life will “go back to normal”. Instead, we should try to embrace a flexible mindset. We can’t control when things will “go back to normal” and we need to accept that.
OK – so we shouldn’t set goals based on things we can’t control. But that doesn’t mean we can’t set goals. You may be experiencing pandemic fatigue because there are circumstances you can’t control, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on all the things you can control. Maybe you want to set small, attainable goals, like exercising three times a week or taking a shower first thing in the morning (even if you’re working from home). Or maybe you want to set bigger goals, like learning a new language or saving up for a new car. Either way, setting goals helps to give you a sense of motivation and accomplishment. And, setting goals reminds you that there is a lot that you can still do, even with pandemic restrictions in place.
We’re not saying that you shouldn’t stay informed. One of the weapons in our anti-COVID arsenal is consuming information from reliable news sources. However, if you’re constantly checking newsfeeds or doomscrolling social media, chances are you’re increasing your anxiety. You can consider setting defined limits on the amount of time you spend reading the news or you can introduce blackout periods in your day – times when you distance yourself from news stories and just decompress.
We know… this is harder than it sounds. That’s why you can start by identifying one unhealthy pattern in your life. Maybe you’re not getting enough sleep. Maybe you’re eating unhealthily. Then, identify what triggers that pattern. For example, whenever you’re stressed, you may cope by eating all the chocolate in the house. Then, you need to come up with an alternative way to cope with that trigger. So, the next time you feel stressed, you can make the conscious decision to go for a walk instead. We know that this is easier said than done but you can get out of your rut bit by bit, with determination and mindfulness.
We haven’t been able to go to family gatherings, parties and restaurants like we used to. But, we need to stay connected to other people. According to Brain Forest, staying connected “can help keep us healthy, reduce stress, and improve productivity”. There are small ways to stay connected. If you’re a remote worker, you can check in with your colleagues to find out how they’re doing. Even a short conversation can create a sense of warmth and connection. And, we need to continue to be creative to stay in touch with family and friends. Whether you’re planning Zoom birthday parties or just scheduling a catch-up call with an old friend, keeping human connections alive will help you feel happy and supported.
Sometimes, you may be experiencing challenges that cannot be solved by a blog post. Maybe, you feel as if you cannot solve your problems alone or even with the help of family or friends. If that’s the case, please reach out to a professional. Maybe your job offers mental health support. Or maybe someone you trust can recommend a good professional. Or, you can review resources available to people who need help. Remember, just because you’re social distancing doesn’t mean that you’re not alone.