Coping With COVID-19 Stress and Fatigue
Written by the THIS WAY UP Team, July 1, 2021
As lockdowns continue to roll out across the country, we are reminded once again that COVID-19 is still with us. Our hope to return to normal life sooner rather than later, has been set back once again. It’s fair to say it’s been a challenging 18 months for us all, and we hope that you and your loved ones are doing okay.
We want to remind you that it’s okay to feel mixed emotions right now. It’s okay to feel upset that COVID-19 is still disrupting our day to day life. It’s natural to feel worried about new variants of the virus and the effect it may have on us and our loved ones. It’s understandable to feel stressed while awaiting COVID test results or feel confused about vaccinations.
Many of us may also be feeling fatigued. Fatigued that we are still facing the uncertainty of the pandemic here in 2021. Fatigued that our income or jobs still may not be secure, that our freedom to move around is limited by border closures and that our loved ones may still not be in reach after so long. We may also feel fatigued from the accumulated grief for the people, relationships or health we’ve lost; or the life experiences, celebrations or opportunities we’ve missed out on.
If you are also now in a lockdown (or have been before, or are fearful your state or territory could enter into one), it is understandable if COVID-19 fatigue is taking a toll on your wellbeing, compounding the many mental health effects we’ve felt up to this point. Any “novelty” we might have felt the first time we were in lockdown has likely worn off.
So what can we do to look after ourselves during this ongoing challenge?
Here are three tips to help you get through COVID-19 fatigue and stress….
#1. Acknowledge your experience of the pandemic
COVID-19 presents each person with their own set of tiring challenges, so try not to compare your situation to that of others, and focus on what you can do to get through this. Compared to last year, some of us may be struggling more this year, while others may be coping better than before.
Give yourself permission to feel what you feel, without criticising yourself or minimising how you feel. Keep an eye out for thoughts like “I’m being weak, I shouldn’t be upset about this” or “It’s not a big deal, others have it worse than me”. This will just add to your fatigue.
It is possible to maintain perspective and be empathic to the plight of others and acknowledge the difficulties of your own circumstances at the same time.
#2. Balance what you think and talk about
Try to strike a balance between acknowledging the current reality of living through a pandemic and focusing on other important or meaningful aspects of your life. It’s normal to think and talk about COVID-19 a lot when it has affected our lives so much. However, when this topic takes up most of your headspace, it can make you feel more fatigued. Try not to let it consume your thoughts or dominate all of your conversations. Consciously shifting your thoughts and focusing on other things can give you a break, help you stay level headed and preserve a feeling of normality. It may also mean making more sensible decisions around consuming media. Aim to consume enough to keep up with health advice and government decisions, but not being drained by doing this excessively.
#3. Create opportunities to experience positive emotions
It’s natural for our mood to dip during this time, or to feel more anxious, uncertain or experience other unpleasant emotions. To prevent negativity from spiralling further, we can level out our mood by deliberately finding ways to increase positive emotions.
Every day, plan, schedule, and make sure you do at least:
- one activity that is fun, pleasurable, relaxing or enjoyable
- at least one activity that gives you a sense of productivity, achievement, meaning or satisfaction.
It doesn’t matter how small these activities are, the important thing is that they bring you joy – even if only for a few minutes. If COVID-19 restrictions are getting in the way of your usual activities, be flexible and creative in finding COVID-safe alternatives. This will help energise you if you’re feeling fatigued from negativity.
More tips on getting through the pandemic can be found here.
For more strategies for staying on track during these fatiguing times, check out our suite of free online tools for coping with COVID-19.
We also recommend you listen to Staying on Track – a free audio guide designed to give you some tips for looking after yourself and your mental health during the ongoing pandemic.
Be honest with yourself if you’re finding it tough. There is no shame in seeking extra support from a family member, friend, colleague, your GP or a mental health clinician, and do this early on. Many Australians already have, and you can feel more supported when others are alongside you too.
Interested in learning more?
Free Online Tools for Coping with COVID-19
Access a suite of practical workbooks, an audioguide, and other useful materials to help you manage coronavirus stress and anxiety.