Do you have pandemic fatigue? 5 ways to deal with it

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What is pandemic fatigue?

Pandemic fatigue is “a natural sense of burnout that can happen since we’ve had to stick to public health measures for such a prolonged period of time. It can occur when people get tired of the pandemic measures and become less likely to follow public health practices or simply begin to drown out those messages.” (Pandemic fatigue: What is it and how do we move past it? ).

It can start with a feeling of restlessness and irritability, especially for those who have been cooped up in their homes for extended periods of time. They can also have difficulty concentrating on tasks, start showing anti-social behaviour, and lethargy. For others, it may be physical symptoms like feeling sleepy all the time or a drastic change in eating habits.

5 ways to prevent the damaging effects of pandemic fatigue:

  1. Recognize and address the symptoms

    Aside from the symptoms mentioned above, there are other signs to watch out for that show that you’re headed for a burnout. These include:

    • headaches
    • body aches
    • a shift to a negative view of life (doubting your work, lack of motivation)

    Read: Do you feel SAD? Steps to beat the winter blues if you’re feeling extraordinarily down as the colder months set in.

    Self-care is important when you start experiencing these symptoms. Be gentle with yourself and take some time off when you can. See your family doctor so that they can prescribe medication, therapy or a healthy diet to help relieve symptoms. Complete your COVID-19 vaccine and consider also getting the flu shot while you’re there. It’s an added protection especially in the winter months (Where can I get my flu vaccine? ).

  2. Maintain healthy habits

    One of the best antidotes to these uncertain times is sticking to a healthy and consistent routine. It brings a sense of normalcy and help you stay calm. It’s important to sleep and wake up at regular hours (make sure to have enough sleep), exercise or meditate, have breakfast, and dress up even if you’ll be working or staying home.

    Maintain a hygiene routine. Pandemic fatigue causes us to lose vigilance. If you’re sick of wearing masks, remember that your actions (or inaction) can affect those around you. Remember all the effort you’ve put in the past months. Now is not the time to relax and throw that all away. Just to refresh your memory:

    • Physical distance. Allow six feet of distance from others when possible.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water; use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not readily available.
    • Wear masks. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam recently prescribed wearing three-layer non-medical masks with a filter layer. Recent studies have found them to be the most effective (for daily wear).
    • Stay home when sick. Don’t go out in public to protect others.
    • Disinfect often used surfaces at home and at work.
    • Limit gatherings.
    • Don’t doomscroll. Doomscrolling is endlessly going through negative online news. Mental hygiene is also important so limit your news intake to only what is necessary.
  3. Go out safely

    Prevent cabin fever by going outdoors safely. Walk outside or jog regularly. You can now also travel locally and internationally, but consider whether you’re up for entry, testing, and quarantine requirements for international travel. Avoid the three Cs:

    • Closed spaces with poor ventilation
    • Crowded places with many people nearby
    • Close faces, such as close-range conversations

    Take additional precautions when taking public transportation like wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance from others. Don’t take public transportation if you are feeling COVID symptoms or travelling to get checked.

    You may have limited places to go to at this time but it’s worth the sacrifice if it’s going to stop the spread of the virus. For more safety tips when going out, go to: Personal and social activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  4. Maintain social connections

    Talk to your friends and family regularly either online or by phone. Even just a quick hello can lift anyone’s mood up. Don’t forget your parents and grandparents. Cheer them up with letters, your kids’ artworks, and call them often.

    Have regular online meetings with your team to catch up with each other if you’re working from home. Short online “water cooler” chats can help you stay in the loop about workplace happenings and help ease the feeling of isolation.

    Recently arrived newcomers can be most vulnerable during these times. They need help to know their way around Manitoba. If you’ve been here for a while, reach out to a newcomer if you know someone nearby. Call or Skype chat to share helpful information or point them to the right Immigrant-serving organization. If you’ve just arrived in Manitoba, contact these organizations for help with your orientation, employment, language training or education. These agencies are funded by IRCC to provide free services to help ease your settlement and integration.

  5. Practice compassion

    Help others cope and extend help when you can.
    Help others or ask for help – Do you need help getting groceries, picking up medication or running an errand? Or are you willing to do these tasks for someone? Go to Help Next Door MB. This is a platform that connects Manitoba residents who are unable to leave their homes (elderly, disabled, vulnerable) with those who are willing to help them with errands such as grocery shopping, picking up medication, or emergency snow clearing, and others. Read Should you volunteer during the pandemic? 5 steps to help out safely to know the proper protocols to follow before volunteering.

    Do you need someone to talk to?
    Mental Health Virtual Therapy – This is available to Manitobans 16 years old and older who are coping with mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety. It now also includes two free counselling sessions from a trained professional from Morneau Shepell. Other phone and online supports in Manitoba include: Klinik Crisis Program, Sara Riel, Inc., and Aurora Family Therapy Centre.

    Lastly, show compassion when dealing with other people, especially those who are having problems following health protocols. Everyone is stressed and on edge about the pandemic. A little kindness will go a long way.

Article updated December 2, 2021.
Sources: Winnipeg’s code red restrictions can bring pandemic fatigue — here’s how to cope, Peggy Lam, CBC News; Burning out working from home? Here are ways to prevent it, Nicole Brumley, Global News; Pandemic fatigue: What is it and how do we move past it? Public Health (WDG); Going out and social activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Accessed November 3, 2020.

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Community Resources

Reach out, ask for help and connect with others. There are many programs you can join to ease your feelings of isolation:
English Online’s Coffee Chats
Immigrant Centre – Access English Centre Conversation Groups
Programs for seniors: A&O COVID-19 Response Programs

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