By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
If it feels like the pandemic is dragging on endlessly, you are not alone.
That feeling is ubiquitous in fact that it has been dubbed “COVID fatigue.”
Though not a clinical diagnosis, the term describes a common feeling of resulting from life changes resulting from the pandemic. Wearing masks, little-or too much-work, changes in schooling, fear of the virus striking, lack of socializing and entertainment, shortages of goods or services and remote everything all add up to COVID fatigue.
“People are strained by COVID-19 and the worry of it and some of the social and political struggles,” said Carl Christensen, licensed clinical social worker with North Coast Counseling in Rochester. “The restrictions are getting old. People are tired of having to accommodate this. I think people are sometimes forgetful and some are resentful so they get angry about it. I think we all are struggling some.”
But Christensen added that for those with existing mental health challenges, the restrictions caused by the pandemic add further strain. Isolation, changes in routines and uncertainty can exacerbate some mental health issues. Reaching out to therapists for remote sessions can be helpful, even though it is not the same as meeting in person.
Christensen said that avoiding or denying the reality of the pandemic are not helpful strategies. It is OK to mourn disappointments and miss loved ones; however, remaining stuck in those thoughts and feelings is not healthful.
Christensen said building structure into the day with goals to accomplish can help people feel more normal during pandemic life, as well as engaging in enjoyable activities.
“It’s important to figure out ways you can get out safely,” he said. “I recommend little day trips in the car to state parks where they’re out in the open. As the weather gets colder, it’s hard. ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,’ states a Danish proverb.”
He also encourages people to remember that the pandemic will not last forever and that things will improve.
Excessive news exposure
Nicki Ditch, licensed mental health counselor with In Truth Mental Health Counseling Services in Rochester, reminds clients to stay off social media and avoid excessive news exposure.
“There are people worried about not being informed but sometimes there’s too much information,” she said.
She said that it is vital to ask for help when needed, whether that is a listening ear or someone who can propel you forward.
Instead of ignoring safety precautions or holing up for weeks on end, “look for the balance,” Ditch said. “Step outside the house. Anywhere you can go, just wear a mask and go. Just use the outdoors as much as possible.”
She encourages essential workers to take time for themselves, as many have been working extra hard during the pandemic. Those who have been out of work may need to do some volunteering, home repair or working on projects or something else to do to feel useful and productive.
It also helps to realize that no one is going through the pandemic alone. Some people have posted signs with slogans such as “We will get better.”
“Even though they’re strangers, knowing others are going through this helped get me more balanced,” Ditch said. “It put that reminder in me that others had the same idea I had. It helped get more balanced.
“It’s an acknowledgement. It’s like a nurturing mother who says, ‘There’s hope.’