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Four Ways to Overcome Pandemic Fatigue

There was a period, somewhere around mid-July, where I felt like I was stuck on the spin-cycle in my washing-machine. The pandemic had reduced my ambition, daydreams, road-trips, and paychecks to a “wait-and-see” spectator sport. I felt myself flounder and grow weary in the face of closures, cancellations, infection curves, and morgue refrigeration units. The need to keep striving for better days became overshadowed by a strange sort of survivor’s guilt. After six months of positive thinking and insolation,

I realized I was surviving, but I was not necessarily thriving. This natural response to prolonged uncertainty and the disruptions caused by a pandemic is called “pandemic fatigue.”

Symptoms include:

· Lack of motivation

· Changes in eating and sleeping habits

· Irritability

· Stress over tasks that would typically be handled well

· Difficulty concentrating

· Feelings of hopelessness

Have you experienced any of these things during the last year? I know I have struggled on-and-off with a few of them. The longer the pandemic meanders through our lives, the more urgent it becomes to hold onto the belief that this pandemic is near its conclusion. We need life to “get back to normal,” but we also need to function and thrive through what is our current normal by achieving our goals and setting our sights on a brighter future. While we wait for that day to come, how can we successfully endure or overcome pandemic fatigue symptoms? Here are four steps we can use to help us accomplish our goals while waiting for the world to re-calibrate into something we can all recognize.

1. Accept Our Reality

At the beginning of this pandemic, experts told us that two weeks at home would stop the virus’s spread. Two weeks became four, and four became six. A full year later, our hospitals are still at critical mass in most communities. The constant cycle of hopefulness overturned by false-starts can make it difficult to hang onto our positive thinking or annual resolutions. The key to success is to set goals based on our current circumstances. If our goals all start with statements like, “When things reopen, I will…” or “Once we have a vaccine, I can…”. Planning for those events is terrific, but it can also hinder us from accomplishing things in the here-and-now. When we accept our circumstances, we can move past feelings of discontent and frustration. The shift in focus empowers us to reach our goals or create new plans that are not dependent on a vaccine or cure. The more we learn to adapt, the more we will accomplish.

2. Engage and Connect

Staying connected with others is essential to overcoming pandemic fatigue. Isolation is the foundational attribute of pandemic fatigue, and it poses the greatest threat to our emotional health. Meaningful conversations with others who manage their lives and emotions while maintaining physical distance can give us insight and ideas for navigating our own struggles. The more battered we are by pandemic fatigue, the more our minds and bodies will want to isolate. In order to conquer the tendency to isolate, our goals should include ways to connect with family and friends each week.

3. Create Goals That Give Back

Millions of people have lost their jobs during this pandemic, lost loved ones, struggled with mental health issues and loneliness. How can we incorporate caring for others into our 2021 goals? Are we in the position to donate to causes in need of our support, volunteer at food banks, or champion environmental efforts in our communities? No matter how small our actions may appear, be assured that they have the power to make a big difference in someone’s life, and in the process, enrich our lives.

4. Stick to a Routine

While it is often easier said-than-done, we cannot sacrifice elements of self-care during this pandemic. Keeping to a healthy sleep schedule, eating plenty of vegetables, carving out time for daily exercise, and shutting down our work devices at a reasonable time will help us stay grounded and refreshed. When we maintain structure in our lives, our goals do not become overwhelming or transient. A balanced approach to life allows us to cope with the intensity of our current circumstances.

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