When Everything Becomes Too Much: Managing COVID-19 Fatigue
Even with vaccinations already taking place in several parts of Canada within the priority sectors, COVID-19 isn’t showing signs of slowing down. As of December 19, 2020, the number of positive cases in the country surpassed half a million, with the global count pegged at 76 million. There are fears of a “twindemic” as the cold weather sets in throughout Canada and most parts of the world.
As a result, the overall mental well-being of majority of the Canadian population is in dire straits. According to the newest wave of data collected through a nationwide monitoring survey on the mental health impacts of COVID-19, released in December 2020 by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in partnership with UBC researchers, including the Faculty of Medicine’s Dr. Anne Gadermann,
40 per cent of Canadians say their mental health has deteriorated since March when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus as a pandemic.
The decline is more pronounced in those who are unemployed (61 per cent), those with a pre-existing mental health issue (61 per cent), younger people ages 18-24 (60 per cent), Indigenous peoples (54 per cent), those who identify as LGBTQ2+ (54 per cent), and those with a disability (50 per cent).
Some of us may have fallen susceptible to what psychological health experts refer to as COVID-19 fatigue. Alison Buttenheim, a behavioral epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, explains this syndrome to being like in a prolonged state of “fight or flight.”
As we all know, the fight-or-flight response (also known as the acute stress response), is a natural physiological reaction that occurs when we are faced with something terrifying, either physically or mentally. Hormones are released in our bodies to prepare it to either stay and deal with the threat or to run for safety. But as noted by Eric Zillmer, a licensed clinical psychologist based at Drexel University in Philadelphia, the fight-or-flight response is helpful for short-lived emergencies, not for a long-term crisis like COVID-19. These days, we’re in a constant state of emergency, which causes stress and anxiety and is likely to push us over the edge.
While there’s no overnight solution to conquering COVID-19 exhaustion, there are ways to keep it in check. One approach is to establish a routine. Even though your class schedules or part-time work schedules may be all over the place as a result of the uncertainties that come with provincial and city-wide restrictions, do your best to keep them well-aligned. Doing so creates stability and therefore leads to minimized stress levels.
Another way is to create a positive narrative by keeping a journal and filling it with good aspects in your life. Starting a gratitude journal can also help.
On that note of staying positive, it’s also important to avoid any negative coping strategies, such as rebellious behaviour of not wearing masks in indoor places and hosting large parties which violate the physical distancing rules. The gratification in this type of behaviour, if any, is superficial, and what’s worse is that it will put you and the people around you at risk of contracting the virus.
Practicing self-care is also an ideal way to beating COVID-19 burnout. This can be done in several ways, like scheduling a me-time where you enjoy your favourite treat or snacks while watching a feel-good movie or listening to your favourite band.
And since we’re social beings, it’s always recommended to reach out to family and friends online. It might not be the same as being in the same physical space, of course, but digital video conferencing platforms like Zoom are a good alternative. In addition, you and your loved ones can also enjoy a plethora of online games to keep Game Night very much alive.
It’s been ten months, and all throughout that time, we’ve been told time and again that a sense of normalcy is a long road ahead. For now, we have to accept that this is the temporary normal and look forward to when vaccination efforts start to roll out on a wider scale. Times are tough indeed, but we can continue to hang in there. Be strong.