Tired of being cooped up, tired of being careful, tired of sanitising everything, tired of being scared, tired of the uncertainty, tired of hearing about and being affected by COVID-19, tired of lockdown restrictions, …tired, …tired, …tired!!! Many feel this way. With these feelings of tiredness, comes anxiety, depression or even exhaustion. This is referred to as “pandemic fatigue.”
When widespread lockdowns began across the world in response to COVID-19, many hoped life would get back to normal in a couple of weeks. Now months later and counting, there is still no end in sight for the pandemic, and the resurgence of the virus in many parts of the country has forced businesses and sectors that had reopened, to close again.
At the onset of the pandemic many were vigilant with the washing and sanitising of hands, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces with the hope that these actions will save them from contracting the virus and go a long way towards curbing the nationwide spread. With the global health crisis dragging on with no end in sight and infection rates increasing exponentially, many have become increasingly frustrated with the COVID-19 pandemic and precautions to combat it. This has led to reduced vigilance in regard to the additional hygiene and safety measures, wearing of masks, and disregard of the advice and government directives issued in regard to personal movements, social interactions etc.
The coronavirus has also brought with it a number of stressors such as wide spread uncertainty, job losses, social isolation, health challenges, financial challenges, child care challenges, a rise in gender based violence and all of these exert an extreme toll on the mental health of millions of people.
Many people are experiencing demands of situations which exceed their coping resources, experiences they have not been prepared for and yet are expected to succeed through them. Many have to balance working on virtual platforms while looking after their children or sick family members, while also taking care of household chores and the list goes on. With working from home there’s no clear cut-off or divide between work and home. Virtual meetings have created a situation where one can attend back to back meetings all day, without getting out of their chair.
Uncertainty lurks at each corner: We no longer know when our children will return to school, others do not know if or when they can go back to work, or whether they will have a job, or an income. We wonder when will we be free to visit our loved ones or resume social and other activities that bring us joy. We are faced with a pandemic which has no failsafe methods for the prevention of infection. This lack of control brings with it unprecedented levels of stress
The significant changes brought by the pandemic have put tremendous pressure on people, and staying tense both physically and emotionally for a prolonged period, might contribute to chronic stress and “pandemic fatigue” and can lead to mental problems.
People feel physically and mentally tired, their bodies and brains have become tired from staying highly alert for a long time. This consumes their energy and motivation with some becoming less alert and adopting a more relaxed attitude to the precautions. The sense of urgency has faded for many, most feel burned out physically and mentally by the stress from fear of infection, social isolation, changes in routine, uncertainty, etc. This change of attitude could make the effects of the crisis worse. Being tired also affects people’s performance at work and may strain their relationships, while becoming more relaxed about anti-pandemic precautions or giving up poses a health threat to society.
It appears that the “fear of COVID-19” no longer works as it did before. Psychologists have advised that “When we face a sudden threat, our bodies respond in fear to cope, but this usually lasts a short time only. The pandemic has lasted so long that people have passed the stage of being purely motivated by fear in order to take protective measures.”
Pandemic fatigue can, on the one hand, make the public less anxious and scared, but on the other hand, it can cause people to let their guard down and thus contribute to the resurgence of COVID-19 cases. This change of attitude must be treated seriously, or it could make the crisis worse.
Pandemic fatigue and its effects do not spell the end of our coping mechanisms or resilience; we can overcome it! In order to combat this fatigue, people are advised to prepare mentally and emotionally for the long haul in regard to the pandemic. It is important to acknowledge pandemic fatigue as well as its effects on our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Despite personal feelings we need to acknowledge that keeping up the precautions will protect individuals, their communities and society at large.
Another possible method for overcoming the fatigue is establishing new routines in order to regain a sense of control of one’s life, such as setting aside time to exercise, and being clear about time for work and rest. Tapping into the social support reserves, albeit it being through the use of technology at our disposal, to improve our sense of belonging, provides key resources for mitigating stress.
Increasing our awareness regarding the pandemic, its effects and adapting to the inevitable changes we are faced with, as well as taking practical steps to deal with the economic effects of the pandemic, will help combat feelings of helplessness and uncertainty.
Realisation that people are highly resilient and can adapt to all kinds of difficult circumstances through increasing coping resources will help us to overcome pandemic fatigue. Realising that “life doesn’t get easier…we get stronger and more resilient”, as per Dr Steve Maraboli.
We encourage you to not allow pandemic fatigue to set in and sabotage all of the work, efforts implemented and sacrifices made individually and as a nation, to combat this pandemic, and for us not to doubt our ability to overcome against all odds.
In the event that you feel overwhelmed by the effects of COVID-19 or Pandemic Fatigue, you may make use of the various services available through:
Depression and Anxiety Helpline
0800 70 80 90
Suicide Crisis Line
0800 567 567
SADAG Mental Health Line
011 234 4837
24hr Helpline 0800 456 789
Akeso Psychiatric Response Unit 24 Hour
0861 435 787
“When we learn how to be resilient, we learn how to embrace the beautifully broad spectrum of the human experience” Jaeda Dewalt.