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Lockdown Fatigue

Pandemic Fatigue

No one thought when the pandemic hit in March 2020, that over one year later, many of us would still be dealing with its fallout. The restrictions for those living and working in areas where the number of COVID cases are higher have caused psychological, physical, and emotional effects, including physical and mental exhaustion.

Even with vaccines here, we are also experiencing the FOMO of watching others being vaccinated while many of us wait. This waiting period can feel frustrating.

This information sheet outlines what pandemic fatigue is, some of its causes, signs and symptoms, ideas to help you to manage it, and where to seek help if needed.

What is pandemic fatigue?

Pandemic fatigue has been described worldwide as a state of exhaustion caused by the long-term effects of COVID-19 and the changes it has caused to every aspect of your life. It is a state experienced when people have had to come to terms with a virus that has affected every aspect of their life, including their freedom, and which has continued for months, sometimes with no end in sight until a vaccine or treatment is discovered.

Allow yourself to grieve the ‘old normal’ Many people miss the pleasures of their old way of life and are grieving the loss of safety and predictability that has resulted from COVID-19. Grief is a natural reaction to loss or change of any kind and it is important to give yourself time to adjust to new routines and activities. Dealing with feelings of sadness and loss can make us feel like we are ‘on an emotional roller coaster’ which can cause our behaviour to be unpredictable. This can lead to tensions and conflicts with the people we live with and they may not know how to best support us. Being able to communicate honestly about how you are feeling and how you can support each other may reduce or avoid potential conflict. Remember, many people will be sharing a similar experience to you so don’t be afraid to share your feelings and be open to accepting help and support from others if needed.

What are the causes?

Most people have never experienced the unknowns related to, and the restrictions imposed by, COVID-19. The unfamiliarity of this situation can be seen through the use of so many terms that we have heard on a daily basis since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived:

• social and physical distancing

• unprecedented

• feeling unwell – get tested

• practise good hygiene

• restrictions

• quarantining

• self-isolation

• curfew

• daily reported cases

• border closures

• mandatory mask wearing

All these terms are now a part of everyday language. And recently, ‘pandemic fatigue’ has been added to this growing list.

Understanding pandemic fatigue

Some of the reasons for the fatigue you may be feeling include:

• not being able to do what you want to

• being cooped up

• having to home school your children while trying to work from home or feeling sad your children wear masks at school all day or cannot do extra-curricular activities or go to camps etc

• sick of being cautious

• being cut-off from normal social interaction

• feeling uncertain and anxious about your employment or financial situation

• not seeing an end to the changes in your world as a result of COVID-19

• worrying about what the world will look like after COVID-19

• hearing about some people ‘not doing the right thing’

• the inconsistent messages given by leaders and politicians

• being bombarded by COVID-19 information

• seeing some countries rollout a successful vaccination plan while not seeing the same in your country

What does pandemic fatigue feel like?

Some of the symptoms of pandemic fatigue that you may be experiencing include:

• short temper with outbursts of frustration, anger and irritability

• sadness

• depression

• anxiety and fear

• physical exhaustion and burnout

• difficulty focusing, prioritising, problem-solving and making decisions

• lack of motivation and reduced interest in previously enjoyed activities

• difficulty in maintaining a routine

• behavioural changes such as non-compliance with public health strategies, over- or under-eating and increased reliance on alcohol, cigarettes or drugs

• sleep disturbance

• negative thoughts like ‘I’m over this’, ‘I can’t see an end to it all’, ‘I’m so tired, I’ve just got no energy or motivation’, ‘It’s getting harder and harder to get out of bed each morning’, and ‘I can’t stand this anymore’

• exhaustion throughout the day

How to deal with pandemic fatigue

Some ideas for managing during this difficult time:

• Recognise and try to accept that although you want to return to some sort of normality, this is only possible when it is safe.

• Acknowledge your feelings and reactions and try not to be critical or judge yourself. Some ideas that might help to recognise and understand your reactions include keeping a journal, doing meditation or other relaxation, or talking through your feelings with someone you trust.

• Be kind to yourself (and others). Accept that you may be more tired, not as productive or motivated as usual, and that you may have a shorter fuse and be more irritable.

• Try to create and stick to a routine. It’s common to feel tired and unmotivated when you’re not in your usual schedule, so it’s important to create a routine for your sleep, meals, work, rest and exercise. If you are working from home, take timeout and schedule regular breaks to get fresh air and relax.

• Connect with family, friends, and colleagues. Humans are social beings, so one of the hardest impacts of the COVID-19 for you may have been the restrictions on your social contact with people. If this is the case, make the most of technology, whether it be the phone or computer, to speak and/or see the important people in your life on a regular basis.

• Make the most of any opportunities to communicate, such as chatting over the balcony with a neighbour, passing them biscuits you baked; speaking to a passer-by while out walking in your local area; or asking the delivery person how they are as they deliver a parcel.

• Spend time relaxing. Do the things you enjoy, whether it be listening to music, reading, watching movies, gardening, working on your family history, playing games, or doing puzzles, craftwork or painting.

• Try to balance your negative thoughts with positive ones, to focus on the present and try not to worry about what you cannot control. 

• Seek additional help when needed.

• Make sure you look after yourself and get some of the following basics right:

• eat sensibly

• get regular exercise and keep active

• sleep well – try and keep to a routine and prioritise sleep, as the body needs good sleep to restore itself

• drink plenty of water

• get fresh air and sun if possible.

Accessing help

Seek additional support if you feel that you are struggling with pandemic fatigue, or with coping with any aspect of COVID-19. A therapist may be able to help. Our team of therapists at Therapy in Barcelona are are highly trained and qualified professionals skilled in providing effective interventions for a range of concerns.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides reliable information about the coronavirus such as its symptoms, steps you can take to protect yourself, and what to do if you are affected.

World Health Organization The World Health Organization provides information and guidance regarding the current outbreak of coronavirus disease.



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