What is COVID fatigue and how do we manage it?
Lockdowns, self-isolation, second waves, third waves, travel restrictions, bans put in place, lifted and dropped again, new vaccines, vaccine shortages – as the global COVID-19 pandemic carries on, it gets harder and harder to stay on top of developments. It seems that there’s no end to the crisis – at least not soon. The constant fear, worry and confusion is taking its toll on everyone – it’s called Covid fatigue.
Whether you have friends and family members who have been taken ill, or you’ve never even met anyone who has had COVID-19, the constant low-level stress of that past year has very likely affected you too. It’s not just our mental health that’s under threat, but physical health too.
What is COVID fatigue?
COVID fatigue is the result of constant low-level stress resulting from the current crisis situation. Stress or stressors cause your body to react with one of the four defensive responses – fight, flight, freeze or fawn. Stress hormones are released, your heart beats faster, your breathing rate increases and your muscles tense.
These reactions are useful for short-term stressors e.g. if someone sneaks up behind you and makes a grab for you, these instincts help you react faster to make a quick getaway. But when you’re in a constant state of tension, it starts wearing down your body. It causes exhaustion and drowsiness, contributes to a lack of concentration and can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. You may struggle to sleep, get more headaches and be more prone to sickness. It can even cause you to gain weight faster and struggle to throw weight off, thanks to increased levels of cortisol in your body.
All of this makes for an unhappier, unhealthier you.
How can we fight COVID fatigue?
Managing COVID fatigue means managing your stress levels. It’s increasingly difficult to do as the pandemic drags on, but it’s important to keep doing your best to care for yourself. This means:
- Sticking to a regular exercise routine.
- Staying in touch with your loved ones. Just because you can’t see people face-to-face doesn’t mean you can’t call or message.
- Monitor the media you consume. Try to stick to books, movies and television that is positive and uplifting.
- Speak out. When you’re feeling down, or struggling to cope, talk about it. You don’t have to enlist a therapist, just chat to a friend and share each other’s burdens.
- Help someone else. Helping other people releases endorphins, which makes us feel happier, fulfilled and more relaxed.
- Create something. Cook, paint, garden, write – do something you love and create something from scratch.
- Stick to a regular hygiene routine. Clean clothes, clean environment and clean you make for a happier you.
- Try a mindfulness app like https://www.smilingmind.com.au/ or https://www.headspace.com/covid-19 to help you stay centered.
We’re all in this together
Remember that you are not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone across the globe. Know that it’s OK to be tired, or struggling – it’s not just you. Together we will get through this pandemic and be stronger for it.