Pandemic Fatigue: Skills to Cope

By Anthony Nguyen

The way I see it, this pandemic has been like having unsuspecting house guests overstaying their welcome and being disruptive to our daily routines, functioning, and yes, even our emotional wellness.

Picture that very animated & needy aunt, boisterous & rowdy cousin, or some person who is tolerable only in small doses because otherwise they will run your patience thin and exhaust you if they decide to make their seemingly brief cameo more long-lasting. We do our best to adjust, be reasonable, flexible, and try to cope with all the sudden changes. But, and surely, it can also be a bit of a burden on us to endure and have to maintain ourselves as if everything is fine. Given the current situation, it is fair to say that some of us are ready to show this pandemic the door and get back to going about our lives undisrupted.

It is completely normal for us to want life to proceed in a way that is predictable, safe, consistent, and (if we can guarantee it) enjoyable. House guests can sometimes occupy a lot of our headspace, time, resources, cause us to feel very dysregulated, become triggered sheerly by their presence, and affect us in ways that can defer how we want our lives to progress. Thankfully, as omnipresent and unpredictable as this pandemic has been, there are still small things that we can do that may give us a greater sense of control and fulfillment in some meaningful capacity. Even when the world can feel like it has come to a screeching halt you can still push forward by working on things not solely dependent on society being fully operational.

This is probably a lot easier said than done but having small, meaningful, and non-externally dependent goals can be helpful towards coping with the situation. Many of our ambitions are linked with society being functional which unfortunately right now things are still at a limited capacity and are very much unpredictable. It might be helpful to look inward to see if there are things we can work on that recenters our focus towards objectives that are meaningful, measurable, and enjoyable. Physical activity and adhering to a routine can have many benefits but fitness encompasses so much more than just lifting weights at the gym or running vast distances outside. Flexibility and range of motion is also important and can be helpful with back pain, stiff joints, and lessening the physical discomforts of aging. There are many independent/solo ways of increasing your skills in this area of health and many benefits to be explored using a virtual domain. Allow yourself to switch your focus and attention away from that “pesky house guest” and work on those stiff hip flexors and tight hammys to give yourself that break you deserve!

Continuing on with the trend of doing things that directly benefit you and not necessarily dependent on anything else, having a variety of hobbies and pastimes are great ways to feel as if life is progressing, moving forward, and also help you to transition your attention to more positive things. Even when we are tired and exhausted, when we engage in positive activities it can sometimes give us the boost that we need to feel better and more present. Learning how to cook for ourselves delicious meals, engaging in a skincare routine that makes sense/works for us, catching up on leisure reading, scrapbooking, finding ways to express our creativity ( via art, music, performance, etc.)…the possibilities are vast and perhaps it might take some brainstorming to find what works for us.

Another way to alleviate fatigue is to also consider strong boundaries and protective measures that promote our intentional moments of rest. Being proactive in this situation can be tremendously helpful especially when we factor in how ubiquitous the pandemic has been. Limiting your exposure to triggering and stressful situations (and people) can be the skill you practice on a daily basis to promote your mental wellness and health. Find things that help you to relax and shift your attention towards these precious moments so that you can recharge and experience life in a way that is restorative and within your control. As cliche as it sounds, deep-breathing and activating that parasympathetic nervous system can really come in handy when dealing with current events or that aunt that just has to comment on virtually everything.

Coping can take the shape and form of many activities, mindsets, and practices and can be a great way to experience life and its richness despite the things that may fall outside of your control. The things mentioned above only graze the surface of one’s potential and ability to navigate tricky, disruptive, and chaotic situations. Speaking with a professional can enhance your ability to come up and get proactive with putting into practice routines, activities, and objectives that can alleviate the fatigue and exhaustion of living in arguably one of the toughest times in our history. Planning and brainstorming what helps/benefits you can be even more effective when you have two brains working at it together.