We have all been dealing with everything Covid related for over a year now, and it has been a trying time for many. People are tired of having to be away from family and friends, and we are being faced with yet another round of shutdowns. Families have been navigating all things around isolation, close contacts, and school closures. As the pandemic continues, it is reasonable to say we are all feeling exhausted, and tuned out, when it comes to restrictions and precautions.
That exhaustion, weariness, and burnout feeling you are experiencing may be Covid fatigue. You may notice increased feelings of anxiety, or observe feelings such as helplessness and hopelessness. You might see a shift in your mood and a lack of interest or concern in things which would usually evoke some emotional response. Perhaps you’re feeling physically and mentally exhausted, even though you’re getting enough sleep. Capacity can seem like it is razor thin, and feelings such as anger and frustration seem to show up quicker. There may also be other shifts you have observed in your behaviours as ways to cope.
Below are a few suggestions and some things to try if you’re feeling fatigued:
Creating routine and structure:
Routine can help with creating structure in a world where inconsistencies feel like the norm. Having structure and routine allows the focus to shift to the ‘what we know’, rather than focusing on the things we are unsure about. When stressful circumstances arise, our thoughts can shift to what is out of our control, which can create feelings of anxiety and helplessness. A helpful strategy can be to visualize, or draw, a type of container (I always pick a bucket). Things in the container are everything within your control and where you have choice (e.g., wearing pyjamas during a zoom meeting), and things out of the container are where you do not have control or choice (e.g., Covid restrictions). The objective is to fill the container as a reminder of all the areas in your life where there is choice. When drawing the container, be sure to fill the majority of the paper. Remember, perspective is important. A small container will reinforce the idea that there may be many things not in your control. Whereas a large container shows all the opportunities and areas where we have choice and control. So go ahead, and start filling your bucket.
Limit use of technology:
Technology has been integral in helping us all remain connected with family, friends, and colleagues. On the flip side of the coin, technology has also provided us with access to information which can create anxiety, make us feel depressed, and even feel disconnected from loved ones. If I wanted to know the headline news on the other side of the world, it would simply be a click away. We are inundated with stories and images of grief stricken families, loss, trauma, and it can make us feel like there will never be an end. Turning off technology, and setting boundaries with electronics can be helpful in managing our expectations. Consider setting a time for all electronics to be put away, and set aside a space where all tech toys can be placed. For example, there may be a basket that all gadgets go in during dinner and evening family time. If you’re someone who prefers remaining connected, consider limiting the sites you visit, or removing certain social media platforms from devices.
Self-care, self-care, and more self-care:
I don’t think we can ever have too much self-care. Taking care of our bodies – emotionally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually all help build resilience in the face of stress. Through recovery we are able to prioritize our basic needs such as sleep, eating, hydrating, activity, and social interaction. It can be helpful to incorporate some structure around these regular habits, so that even when times are stressful, we have an automatic go to. Some examples include, making sure we eat regular meals to fuel our bodies, or taking time to engage in helpful breathing strategies when we become activated by stress. Consider areas where you excel, and also some areas where there is some room for growth. Remember, it is not selfish to put your needs first, and the shift toward prioritizing our needs allows the body to reset, restore, and rejuvenate in order to tackle life’s stressors.
Maintain HOPE and be flexible with your expectations:
There are days when it may feel like for every baby step taken forward, there are leaps taken backwards. It might feel difficult to focus on the future, or to even have hope. Practicing hope does take some practice and helps to build our resilience, and is a good reminder that the tough times will not be forever. Gratitude journalling is an example of an activity to engage in to shift perspective onto the things for which you are grateful, and can help with improving relationships with others and yourself. Consider the structured activity as something to engage in daily, and ask yourself the question: “What are 3 things I am grateful for today?” Challenge yourself to pick 3 different things each day.
Consider your support systems, and the people you feel comfortable being around and talking to about your experiences. Look for ways to connect which are mindful of the restrictions. For example, connect with a good friend in an outdoor area, go out for a walk with a loved one, or plan a get together online. Having hope is a good thing, but be mindful to create expectations which allow for flexibility, and that are clear and realistic so that you don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Flexibility is your friend here, and is a great reminder that as humans, we are designed to adapt, be resourceful, and innovate in the face of stress.
Stay safe and healthy everyone!