Image credit: geralt via Wikimedia Commons
An illness is spreading across the world, and destroying people’s lives on a massive scale. Yes, you’ve guessed correctly, it’s pandemic fatigue.
Pandemic fatigue is the exhaustion and psychological toll of living through a pandemic. The fear of directly getting COVID-19 is the most obvious cause. Then there’s the lockdowns, social distancing, mask-wearing, and other precautions that can all wear people down mentally. The economic insecurity of the pandemic has also caused a lot of stress.
Some effects of pandemic fatigue include changing eating and sleeping habits, nervousness, having trouble focusing, lacking motivation, and being more irritable.
Pandemic fatigue also leads to people losing the discipline necessary to follow social distancing guidelines. During the early stages of the pandemic, people took the pandemic seriously enough to strictly follow health guidelines. But over the past several months, people have got increasingly aggravated by the social distancing guidelines. A poll by Ipsos claimed that half were getting tired of following public health guidelines, and that poll was conducted in October.
In an article for Global News Steven Joordens, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, considers the physiological cause of the collective burnout. Stressful situations can cause a “flight-or-fight” response in your brain: but that psychological reaction was evolved for short-term situations like dealing with a predator in the wild. Maintaining that level of stress over the long term can be damaging.
As a society, we need to recognize even though pandemic restrictions are for the greater good, that might not be the best messaging to convince everyone.
As an individual, there are many ways to deal with the pandemic fatigue within yourself. Both Joordens and UCLA Health suggest that you need to remember to take care of yourself physically, which can perhaps ironically be easy to forget during a pandemic. Sleep at regular hours, eat healthy, and regularly exercise. These are all pretty straightforward ways to maintain your physical and mental well-being. If you’re having trouble managing that, you’re definitely not alone: this very article was delayed by pandemic fatigue as well.
UCLA Health had six other recommendations for dealing with pandemic fatigue. Toronto Star took the interesting approach of looking at a study from the University of Scranton (the electric city?) about New Year’s resolutions and trying to adapt them to habits during the pandemic.
In short, the struggle is real, so take care of yourself out there.
Note that these articles were written months ago, and may not reflect the current state of the pandemic.