Pandemic Fatigue

pandemic fatigue

Unless you lived under a rock for the last 10 months, you are probably experiencing pandemic fatigue. By now you understand the serious dangers of the novel coronavirus SARS- CoV-2, also known as COVID-19. However, everyone is growing tired of the protections necessary to keep the virus manageable.

We see little evidence of the early pandemic days where solidarity around stopping the virus was everyone’s top priority. At first, community members exercised simultaneously on their individual, private balconies and messages like “We’re all in this together!” were scrawled on the locked doors of local businesses who were forced to close. 

Today, our communities and the country feel divided. Some rebel against compliance with restrictions as the virus rages on, and most desperately want to get back to work, school and their individual social lives. We want the world to feel normal again.

What is Pandemic Fatigue?

People are tired of COVID-19.  Period.  They are tired of social distancing, of wearing masks, of being apart; people are tired of being cautious.  As the pandemic approaches its 1-year anniversary, pandemic fatigue sets in. It carries a host of complex emotions that include, but are not limited to: loneliness, boredom, sadness, frustration, anxiety, fear, and hopelessness.  Brought on by extended periods of isolation, pandemic fatigue negatively impacts the mental health of over half the population in the U.S. today according to some reports.

Pandemic Fatigue Spreads the Virus

Pandemic fatigue is just one reason people abandon the social restrictions imposed to keep them safe. To overcome feelings of boredom and loneliness, some people go to parties. To express their disdain for elected officials, some people refuse to follow government requirements to wear masks in public. Unfortunately, this behavior causes cases to begin rising sharply again.

To stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, everyone must follow health and safety guidelines. However, as fatigue sets in, we see poor enforcement and observation of guidelines made worse by lack of discipline and almost non-existent compliance in some parts of the country. This supports the theory that Pandemic fatigue facilitates spread of the virus. The question remains, how do you convince an exhausted person, namely yourself, to keep following the rules? 

10 Ways to Fight Pandemic Fatigue

Here are 10 things all of us can do to fight pandemic fatigue: 

Lead by Example 

Always follow health and safety guidelines, such as wearing your mask, washing your hands and social distancing.  If others see you doing it, they are more likely to do so.   If following the health and safety guidelines becomes a habit, it becomes much easier to do every time. 

Focus on Others

Remind yourself what you have to lose if you or someone you love gets sick.  If you lost a loved one to COVID, how will you feel about not taking simple precautions to protect them?

Reinforce Good Choices

Use positive reinforcement to encourage others to follow the guidelines.  By thanking others who are following health and safety guidelines, you offer them a real connection to the difference they are making and reinforce their good behavior.  

Control Your Own Behavior

When confronted with someone who resists or refuses to follow health and safety guidelines, remember you can’t control them or force them to comply. Instead, clearly state your concern for their actions and explain that until they comply, you must keep your distance.

Take up a Hobby

Change your feelings about the activities you can no longer participate in by adopting new, safe activities such as reading and exercise. Take up a hobby or complete that project you’ve been putting off for a long time.  

Accept the Situation

Accept the situation for what it is. The health and safety restrictions we must follow are necessary and temporary. While we may not know the exact date that the pandemic will end, we know it will eventually end. We simply must persist and see it through to the end. Accepting the situation will give you peace as you carry on.

Develop New Coping Strategies

Recognize that the pandemic has interrupted your normal coping strategies for things that cause stress, sadness and anxiety in your life.  Sure, you can’t meet your best friend at a bar for drinks to tell them about the awful day you had at work, but you can meet over Zoom to share the same stories over a glass of whatever you each have at home.   

Find New Ways to Celebrate

Accept that the pandemic has temporarily changed the way we celebrate big, momentous occasions and small ones alike. Plan a drive-by graduation party or a family game night over Zoom. Do some Internet research to learn how others celebrate similar events.

Talk About It

If your symptoms of pandemic fatigue become severe, such as depression, thoughts of suicide, etc., recognize what you are feeling. Then, confide in someone and seek professional help immediately. Asking for mental health help takes strength and courage. It is a sign of wisdom, not weakness. 

Think Positive

Avoid unnecessary media that upsets you or causes you stress.  Do not argue with people who disagree with you on social media.  When the symptoms of pandemic fatigue start to creep in, focus on the positive outcome you want. You may not be able to change your circumstances or other people’s minds, but you can change the way you think about and respond to them.

Stay Vigilant

Now renew your resolve to follow health and safety guidelines and prevent the spread of the virus. We will get through this.  COVID-19 and living through a pandemic may change us forever, but ultimately, isn’t that the goal?  To live through it and emerge a stronger, better person?  Even if abnormal becomes the new normal, we must stop the spread.  We are exhausted, but we must keep doing the right thing as we hope for a better future. The steps we take today will determine the outcome, so stay vigilant.


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