Dealing With Pandemic Fatigue: Avoiding Burnout When Things Seem Never Ending

Pandemic fatigue is a newly recognized mental health condition that could prevent you or your loved one from living happily, healthily, and to your full potential during these difficult times. While pandemic fatigue can leave you feeling worn out and discouraged, there are steps you can take to keep it at bay or minimize its intensity and influence. If your efforts to control it aren’t entirely successful, you can also seek expert residential treatment services from top-quality mental health professionals.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines pandemic fatigue as “feeling demotivated about following recommended behaviors to protect ourselves and others from the virus.”

This conception is partially correct but not entirely adequate. Difficulty adhering to pandemic protocols is a symptom of pandemic fatigue, but it is only one of the symptoms that you and your loved ones may experience if you become afflicted by this syndrome.

More than anything, pandemic fatigue describes a state of lost emotional resiliency. It is similar to depression in the way it can drain your energy and motivation, undermine your determination to push through difficult times, and leave you feeling like you’re living in a surreal twilight world that bears only a passing resemblance to normal reality.

Pandemic fatigue is a burden that can negatively impact every area of your life, and may continue to do so if you don’t take action to regain your emotional equilibrium.

Why Pandemic Fatigue Develops

The COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented health crisis. In contrast to a natural disaster or single traumatic event, the pandemic is a prolonged emergency with no clear end in sight.

When the outbreak began, you may have hoped or assumed that circumstances would improve significantly in six months, or at most in a year. By now, however, you’ve undoubtedly realized that this virus is operating according to its own rules, and that even vaccines may not be enough to eject it permanently from our lives. In these stressful circumstances, survival means constantly adjusting your behavior and expectations to keep up with the ever-shifting sands of “the new reality.”

You and your family have certainly done your best to cope with these uncommon and extraordinary developments. But unlike other events or situations that may have generated high levels of stress or anxiety in your life, you have no control over how the pandemic storyline will ultimately play out, for yourself, your loved ones, or your society.

More than one year in, you may be finding your coping strategies increasingly difficult to maintain. At this point, you may be relying on your sense of duty and responsibility—to yourself, your family, your job, and your community—to motivate you to keep going.

Unfortunately, obligation is a poor substitute for a sincere desire to learn, grow, and achieve. When your feelings begin to deaden in response to chronic stress, uncertainty, and a sense of unreality, your lack of hope, energy, and enthusiasm can lapse into a perpetual ennui.

Regardless of how responsible and devoted to your family and job you may be, you’ll struggle to complete daily tasks and fulfill important duties. You may feel smothered or overwhelmed by the constant presence of your spouse, partner, children, siblings, or extended family members in the same small space, day after day.

All of this describes the impact of pandemic fatigue, a condition you’ve never faced before and therefore have no established defenses against.

Left to run unchecked, pandemic fatigue could degenerate into more serious health problems like depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or substance dependence. This risk is very real, but it’s one you can ameliorate, if you take steps to either resist the onset of pandemic fatigue or to reduce its intensity if you’ve already experienced its discouraging and debilitating symptoms.

Five Tips for Overcoming Pandemic Fatigue

Pandemic fatigue is a sign of inadequate coping strategies. Here are five steps you can take to keep pandemic fatigue at bay and guide your mind back to a healthier and happier place:

#1 Modify but Don’t Abandon Your Hobbies

In a quarantine situation you can become trapped by routine. Daily life loses spontaneity and its ability to surprise, robbing you of your normal emotional edge.

In these unusual circumstances, the debilitating impact of routine can even infect your hobbies and leisure activities. You may like to read, watch movies, listen to music, play particular sports, or do a dozen other things that can induce relaxation or bring you pleasure or satisfaction. But these activities can lose their capacity to make you feel better—and may even make you feel worse—if you let them become stale or repetitive. When you’re already feeling trapped by mind-numbing repetition, anything that seems overly familiar can reinforce your feelings of emptiness and boredom.

To break out of your rut and add some diversity to your life, try modifying your favorite pastimes to keep them fresh and unpredictable. If you’re an avid reader of fiction, for example, you could switch to non-fiction books about topics that interest you. If you’re a TV or movie aficionado, try watching comedies or classics from the past instead of the modern action movies or downbeat dramas that are your normal fare. If you’ve been playing a lot of golf, switch to something that offers a more vigorous workout, like tennis or bicycling.

#2 Get Outside As Much as Possible

Regardless of any quarantine-related restrictions you might be facing, you should still have ample opportunities to escape from your home and enjoy the outdoors. Search for green spaces wherever you can find them, and let nature’s beauty and inherent healing powers soothe and renew your mind, body, and spirit.

Ideally, you should spend a significant amount of your time outdoors exercising or engaging in some type of physical movement. This may mean practicing a sport, or hiking, or walking, or playing games with your children or with friends.

As a supplement to such health-restoring activities, you should reserve some of your outdoor time for evidence-based, mind–body, stress-reducing activities like meditation, yoga, or Tai Chi. Even reading or working outside for a while can make you feel better, especially if the sun is shining and it’s a warm, beautiful day.

Quarantine protocols are geared to ensure safety, not prevent you from staying active or getting out into the world. If you haven’t been exercising or practicing a sport before, now would be an ideal time to start.

#3 Stay off the Computer When You’re Not Working

Because of the pandemic, many more people are now working from home and may be doing so for quite some time.

This can feel like a relief or a benefit for a while. But as your online hours accumulate, from both work and off-hour pursuits, you may start feeling listless, fatigued, and depressed. Spending countless hours in front of a computer screen keeps you immersed in a simulated and unnatural environment, isolating you in an addictive manneru to the constant flow of information. If you become involved in unpleasant interactions on social media, as so many people do these days, the impact on your moods and emotions can be even more negative and debilitating.

In the current environment, it is more vital than ever that you limit your hours of immersion in the digital environment. If you don’t adjust your computer or smartphone habits to compensate for the time you spend working online each day, you’ll soon find yourself drowning in a virtual environment that is too insubstantial to meet your full range of psychological, emotional, and physical needs.

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#4 Reduce Clutter and Chaos in Your Immediate Environment

When you’re coming and going from home quite a bit, if things are disorganized you may not notice it or be affected by it all that much. But when you spend more hours living in an environment that is chaotic, unkempt, and filled with clutter, it can have a progressively debilitating effect on your mental and emotional states.

Now that you’re spending so much more time at home, you should seize the opportunity to eliminate clutter and chaos from your life. Either alone or with family members, you should go through your home carefully from top to bottom, sorting and disposing of everything you don’t really need and carefully reorganizing the rest.

A well-organized and uncluttered environment can improve your outlook and boost your energy levels. The process itself of decluttering and re-organizing can also function as a fun and interesting pastime, giving you something engaging to do that can also produce highly desirable results.

#5 Consult With a Professional Mental Health Counselor

Trained psychologists and psychotherapists understand the causes, effects, and emotions of pandemic fatigue. They can recognize the warning signs and help those who are struggling find personalized solutions that can make a remarkable difference.

The time to ask for professional help is immediately after the initial symptoms of pandemic fatigue are experienced. They include a loss of motivation, chronic fatigue, feelings of pessimism and despair, an inability to handle daily responsibilities consistently, irritability, disruptions in sleep pattern, and the recurrence of symptoms associated with mental health disorders that a person may have experienced in the past.

One fortuitous development for those who need mental health assistance is the proliferation of therapists who are now making their services available online. Periodic visits with mental health professionals in online platforms like Zoom can have a positive impact on those who are experiencing pandemic fatigue at any stage, and are highly recommended as an alternative to suffering in silence.

Receiving More Intensive Care for Pandemic Fatigue

If online therapy isn’t sufficient to solve the problem, more intensive mental health treatment may be required. Throughout the pandemic, the best residential treatment centers have remained open and active, and have taken all necessary precautions to ensure that clients can be treated safely yet efficiently.

Should you or a loved one require in-depth, expert intervention for any type of mental health disturbance, you should be able to find a treatment center in your region that can offer assistance. While the COVID-19 virus is a concern, serious mental health issues can be every bit as dangerous if you don’t take action to address them.

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