After the better part of a year spent social distancing, wearing masks, using hand sanitizer throughout the day, quarantining, and the general restlessness to return to normal life, “pandemic fatigue” is becoming the pandemic within a pandemic.
How can we distinguish normal anxieties and stresses from pandemic specific issues? First, look for significant changes in mood or behavior. This goes for yourself, your significant other, or your children. Are you easily enraged or frustrated? Are your children less more or less excitable? Does your significant other seem especially nervous, anxious, or depressed?
According to Dr. Cynthia Wilson, chief of Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital’s Adolescent Unit, children respond to having information and being able to make healthy decisions. A good tactic for parents is to implement a structure at home. Set regular times for meals, baths, and bed times, and make sure your children are going to bed on time and waking up on time. Remove smart phones or tablets from their bedrooms so they won’t be tempted to check those. Schedule social hours via video calls with their friends – or other family members – to increase socialization.
Below are ten signs to recognize pandemic fatigue, followed by what you can do to mitigate the elevated emotions.
10 Signs of Pandemic Fatigue
- You/spouse/children are not as diligent about wearing a mask or washing your hands.
- You/spouse/children are less careful about social distancing than you were.
- You/spouse/children are getting enough sleep but still feel or seem exhausted.
- You/spouse/children are more impatient and more irritable.
- You/spouse/children are upset by things that did not previously prove upsetting.
- You/spouse/children are feeling anxious with tasks or situations typically managed well.
- You/spouse/children are not engaging in things previously found to be enjoyable.
- You/spouse/children are feeling hopeless about the future.
- You/spouse/children have higher consumption of food. You/spouse are increasing alcohol or
- You/spouse/children find it harder to focus and concentrate.
How You Can Reduce Pandemic Fatigue
- If you have been lax about sticking to behaviors like wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing, remember that those habits are one of the few ways in which you can assert control in the situation. Doing these things will make you feel more empowered and less hopeless and they will also keep you and your family/community safer.
- Instead of turning to food or substances to manage difficult feelings, identify and name the feelings you’re trying to numb using the feeling chart below. Then practice sitting with these emotions so you develop a tolerance for them and are less inclined to ‘escape’ the discomfort they cause.
- Speak to friends and loves ones who might be struggling with similar negative feelings to get validation and support and share healthy coping strategies.
- Choose one of the activities you used to enjoy but have not engaged in recently. List three things you liked about the activity and then with those in mind, try the activity again to see if you can ‘rediscover’ it. Engaging in activities you used to enjoy is a good way to feel a sense of normalcy and reconnect to your sense-of-self. It can also be a good de-stressor that will then help overall focus.
- Let the people around you know you’ve been feeling irritable and impatient. Knowing you’re out-of-sorts will allow them to understand why you might respond more sharply than usual and not take it too personally. Be mindful of taking out frustrations on those around you. Protecting your relationships in these and other ways is important because having closer connections with others will nourish you emotionally and buffer you against unavoidable stressors and challenging circumstances.
Above all, remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel and try to remain positive. While the stresses and anxieties might be at the forefront, it has also unified us as one world like nothing before it, and we are all in this together until the end.