Way back in July, we started hearing the term “pandemic fatigue.” It’s a phrase used to describe the collective exhaustion we all feel due to the restrictions and never-ending grim news surrounding the virus.
It’s true. We have a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. So, why is the US experiencing the steepest increase in cases and deaths since the pandemic started? What’s going on?
Several factors have converged to cause this sharp uptick in cases.
- The virus is mutating, and the mutated version is more contagious.
- Not enough people have been vaccinated yet.
- We’re growing exhausted from wearing masks and isolating ourselves from our friends and loved ones.
The first two factors are out of our hands. We can’t stop the virus from mutating. That’s what viruses do. And we can’t make the vaccine roll-out go any faster. However, we can choose to continue being vigilant with handwashing, masks, and social distancing.
“This is a virus that preys off of our weakness, preys off of our exhaustion.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
What is pandemic fatigue?
Way back in July, we started hearing the term “pandemic fatigue.” It’s a phrase used to describe the collective exhaustion we all feel due to the restrictions and never-ending grim news surrounding the virus. But when we compare the infection and death statistics from last summer to the current numbers, emphasizing pandemic fatigue in July of last year seems almost premature. If we had pandemic fatigue then, we must be experiencing full-blown “pandemic burnout” now!
What are the symptoms of pandemic burnout? You may feel:
You may also find yourself:
- Sleeping or eating more or less than usual
- Having trouble focusing (brain fog)
- Feeling edgy or nervous
- Arguing with others
- Lacking motivation
Both fatigue and burnout can weaken us. They lead us to believe that it’s useless to continue the fight. Our weary brains begin to ask, “What’s all this sacrifice for when people are still getting sick and too many are still dying?” But this way of thinking is a trap. It’s what the virus wants us to do.
The virus just wants to spread. That’s its only goal. So, when we become discouraged and let down our guard, the virus wins. It gets to do what it does best spread and make people sick.
Here are three ways to prevent (or lessen) your pandemic burnout symptoms so you can stay strong and keep up the fight:
- Stay vigilant. The vaccines are promising but remember: the most powerful tools for defeating the pandemic have been within our reach all along. We can’t give up on handwashing, wearing masks, and social distancing. And, even though it may feel unfair, we must also steadfastly follow state and local mandates on curfews and size limits on social gatherings. If we can all agree to continue doing these simple things, the short-term effects could be more noticeable than any outcome produced by the vaccine roll-out.
- Stop doomscrolling. Merriam-Webster describes doomscrolling as the tendency to continue to read or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Why do we doomscroll? It turns out, our brains are hardwired to seek out and try to understand any threats or dangers that may harm us. We gather as much information as we can so that we can be prepared to save ourselves in the face of such danger.
- But there is a fine line between staying informed and feeding into your fears and anxieties. Moderation is the key. Too much doomscrolling can lead to further stress, depression, and hopelessness especially if the sources you scroll lack verifiable or factual information.
- Give yourself something to look forward to. For years, psychology experts have touted the benefits of “staying present in the moment” to help us feel more connected and in control of our lives. Well, sometimes the present moment isn’t so great! Right now, the present is uncertain, frightening, annoying, and painful. Now is the time to give yourself something to look forward to! Schedule yourself a “future reward” every day. It can be as little as watching a favorite TV show, talking to a friend, or eating a favorite meal. If it makes you happy, it doesn’t matter what the reward is, you will find yourself anticipating it. Then, be sure you allow yourself to really enjoy the reward you looked forward to all day.
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