Battling Pandemic Fatigue

3 min read
Burnout may take hold as people get worn down dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are suggestions for spotting and coping with the symptoms.

Since March last year, the whole world has been immersed in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has been going on for far longer than many envisaged, and a clear end is not yet within sight. It is not surprising, therefore, that pandemic fatigue has set in. According to clinical psychologist Dr Annabelle Chow, as quoted in The Straits Times, pandemic fatigue is “a mental state in which a prolonged, heightened state of fear and caution results in a form of burnout”.

Pandemic fatigue may show up as low mood or energy, irritability, restlessness, and even sadness. People may avoid social situations, suffer from digestive issues, insomnia and headaches. Pandemic fatigue can lead to difficulty in focusing as well. For those working or studying from home, video-conferencing or Zoom interactions may be the norm, giving rise to Zoom fatigue. Pandemic fatigue could make sufferers drop their guard, giving rise to a slackening in following the behaviours recommended to protect against the virus.

Here are some steps that you can take to combat pandemic fatigue:

STAY ACTIVE
Daily exercise is an excellent way of coping with the pandemic. Exercise releases endorphins, which relieve stress. It also channels out adrenaline. Apart from physical exercise, mentally stimulating activities, such as online games or puzzles, enrich the mind and spirit.

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REACH OUT
Don’t allow frustrations and anxieties to build up. Confide in a trusted friend, family member, or a professional. Ignoring feelings or emotions won’t cause them to disappear. Seek help if you exhibit symptoms of pandemic fatigue for a prolonged period. Get the support you need to manage your emotions and reduce stress levels.

LAUGH OUT LOUD
Laughter, they say, is the best medicine. It stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, increases endorphins, and relieves stress. Find something to guffaw at, whether it’s over your favourite sitcom or a comic strip.

DO DEEP BREATHING
Deep breathing exercises can help calm your central nervous system. Try square breathing: Trace a square in your palm and count as you draw each line:

Inhale, two, three, four; hold, two, three, four; exhale, two, three, four; hold, two, three, four.

THINK POSITIVE
When your mind is overcome with negative thoughts, say them out loud and talk through them. Doing that makes them lose their power. State your thought, reflect on how it originated, and offer three positive alternative thoughts.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF
The times we are going through are unprecedented. Much of what is happening is unexpected and beyond our control. Take things as they come. Cut yourself some slack. Don’t set your standards too high and wallow in mistakes or missed opportunities.

LOOK AT WHAT YOU NEED
There are a vast number of tips and advice available on the steps you can take to get yourself through this period. Consider your most critical needs — mental, physical or emotional — and try out one technique at a time to see whether it’s of any help to you.

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