How do you stop ‘pandemic fatigue’ from getting the best of you?

Pandemic fatigue is a serious matter and experts warn that many people are lowering their guard, disregarding the advice of infectious-disease authorities.

One of the most helpful things you can do is exercise: be it jogging, walking, biking or yoga (photo credit: PIXABAY)
One of the most helpful things you can do is exercise: be it jogging, walking, biking or yoga
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
Feeling overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted by all of your efforts to prevent getting coronavirus? If so, you’re not alone. According to the World Health Organization, 60% of the people worldwide are experiencing pandemic fatigue. Vaile Wright, a psychologist at the American Psychological Association, sums it up well: “In the spring, it was fear and a sense of we are all in this together. Things are different now. Fear has been replaced with fatigue.”
As Israelis come out of our second lockdown, the longevity of this pandemic is beginning to exhaust peoples’ patience and resilience. Many people are frustrated and very anxious about their own or a family member’s future. Others are getting depressed, even suicidal, and there has even been an increase in family violence that’s making many social workers and police quite concerned.
Pandemic fatigue is a serious matter and experts warn that many people are lowering their guard, disregarding the advice of infectious-disease authorities. Many people say there is so much disinformation, with one expert disagreeing with another on almost a daily basis, that it is hard to believe anyone. The lack of clarity creates a sense of helplessness and emotional exhaustion.
So do not be surprised if you feel pandemic fatigue. Nevertheless, there are effective ways to cope with it. Here are a few:
• Stay away from the 24/7 news cycle and media overload. It will certainly stress you out. I am not suggesting a complete break from news events, but choose your sources carefully and do not overdo it.
• Find a happy place to be. This might be reading a good novel, taking a walk in the park, listening to your favorite relaxing music, playing a musical instrument, or playing with your children. If you are a grandparent who is not visiting with children or grandkids, Zoom with them online. I talked to one grandfather who played online checkers with his 10-year-old grandson.
• Break the monotony and change your routine. I spoke to one woman, a mother of four children, who told me that she was feeling overwhelmed, depressed and having difficulty being in the house so much with her children. I asked her if she did any type of exercise and she said she did not. I suggested that she could try to take up walking outdoors. I said that since the weather is beginning to cool down, it is a great time to take brisk walks. She texted me later during that day to tell me she was starting a walking exercise routine with a friend.
• CREATE A schedule. Before COVID-19, people were involved in their routines. They had busy schedules. It was challenging to manage a busy life but it was pretty clear what you had to do each day, whether at home or work. Now our schedules have been tossed up in the air. As we try to sort things out, many people are complaining of boredom and confusion about what to do in order to get through the day. It is critical to try to make a schedule. Schedules give human beings a sense of control, and control is a vital human need.
• Set realistic goals and aim for incremental improvement. Psychologist Jordan Peterson talks about his advice for people whose goals are frustrated, difficult to achieve or overwhelming. For many, the COVID-19 pandemic period has made goal pursuit a very frustrating experience and creates a sense of helplessness. In his writings and talks, Peterson suggests that in life it is important to know what your goals are and to aim to achieve them. I would add that even during a pandemic like COVID-19, you do not need to put your goals aside.
Peterson offers some sound advice on this matter. First of all, do not compare yourself to anyone but yourself. In other words, set out a map of very small incremental steps that you need to do to reach your goal. Then each day, try to achieve just one step – no matter how small it is – and on the following day compare your achievement to the day before. If you can see some progress, you will feel better. By putting your focus on the small incremental progress, it will help you to feel that you are moving toward achieving your goal, a powerful remedy against pandemic fatigue.
• Exercise, exercise, exercise. One of the most helpful things you can do to minimize and reduce pandemic fatigue is to exercise, be it jogging, walking, biking, yoga or whatever exercise you find helpful.
• Practice mindfulness and meditation. Go online and learn some simple relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and meditation. It takes a little practice but these relaxation techniques do work.
Pandemic fatigue is a real thing and it can express itself emotionally as well as physically. For this reason, therapists, family doctors and other healthcare providers should be aware of its presentation as described above. The good news is, when people identify that what they are feeling is in fact pandemic fatigue, they can take the necessary positive steps to do something about it. 
The writer is a marital, child and adult cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist with offices in Jerusalem and Ra’anana and global online accessibility. [email protected]; facebook.com/drmikegropper