How to Stay Strong While Experiencing Pandemic Fatigue

As we enter into colder months and holiday times, many of us are experiencing challenges in sticking with the COVID-19 guidelines set in place by the CDC. Pandemic fatigue leads people to make calculated risks where they may decide not to social distance or may neglect to wear masks. Ordinarily cautious individuals who followed CDC guidelines are now starting to expand their traveling during the holidays and open their circles up to more friends or family members. With COVID cases rising, we need vigilance in protecting ourselves and others.

We are witnessing a rise in mental health issues from prolonged stress due to the pandemic including hopelessness, loneliness and helplessness. Good coping skills during “normal times” are to reach out to loved ones for support or to stay active and get out of the house, all of which are more difficult to safely do in a pandemic. With the prospect of another lockdown feeling daunting and imminent, what is to be done?

Reflect for a moment on the things you learned during the first lockdown last spring. Really take a moment to consider your experience. You made it through this before; you can do this again. Take a moment to write down what worked and what didn’t.

Here are some suggestions for dealing with pandemic fatigue:

Control the things you can control. Set a routine for everyday. Get up at the same time and go to bed at the same time. Eat regular meals and get some exercising in. These are important things to manage stress, anxiety and depression.

Get outside. Just because it is cold outside, doesn’t mean the outdoors are shut down. Don a warm jacket, hat and mittens and go for a quick stroll around the block. Change up your route often. Not so steady on the ice? Take a moment to stand on your front step or a tour of your driveway. This would be a great opportunity to practice mindfulness.

Try guided imagery. Guided imagery is where you sit quietly and relax your body and mind while a speaker reads a script full of visual and other sensory cues. This can be a great way to go someplace without leaving your living room. Check out our podcast written and read by me, Emily Risinger, here.

Set small manageable goals and celebrate the successes. Did you finish that historical fiction book you have been meaning to pick up? Did you get the dog out for a walk? Did you and the kids make it a few days without tears or yells? Notice these successes, no matter how small.

Honor the tough moments. No one can deny this pandemic is getting old and our situation is frustrating. We all snap at people we ordinarily get along well with. We feel annoyed with our partners or kids and say things we don’t mean. At times, the tears come as we think about the overwhelming sense of loss of normalcy and traditions. Some people in turn might feel guilt for having these feelings. “How can I feel so bad for myself when others are out of work or dying because of COVID?” Take a page out of the ERP book: acknowledge the feeling, accept it, and choose to do a behavior that is helpful or healthy. This doesn’t mean dismissing your feelings. It simply means saying “Yes, I am sad. I will take a few minutes to let myself be sad and then I am going to (do the dishes, journal, get back to work).” You can be sad and still do your daily things. The trick is to not ruminate or wallow in the muck.

Give yourself some compassion when things don’t always go as planned. Maybe your work-out routine slipped or the kids were bouncing off the wall and you couldn’t get them on task for school because you had work meetings to do. Maybe you ate a donut or plugged the kids in to Netflix for a bit to finish your work. Give yourself permission to not be perfect and demonstrate self-compassion. It’s fantastic, but unrealistic, to say you will meet your goals 100% of the time. Setting this unrealistic expectation sets us up for disappointment, anger, resentment, and shame. It’s okay to meet your daily goals 80% of the time. It’s not helpful to make excuses for having an F-it day every other day. Learn and grow from what does not work for you. Embrace being “good-enough.” It’s okay to give yourself a break every now and then.