The Pegasus Health Mental Health Leadership Team explains ‘COVID fatigue’ and give some tips for managing it.
What is COVID fatigue?
The World Health Organisation describes COVID fatigue as being ‘demotivated and exhausted by the demands of life during a pandemic’. The pandemic has meant loss of regular activities, social connection, roles, identity, and required the need to constantly adapt to change. This can result in strong emotional responses such as sadness, frustration, anxiety, fear, anger, and boredom.
How can COVID fatigue affect our daily lives?
If you are feeling distressed this can impact your overall health and well-being. Symptoms of COVID fatigue can be:
Physical | tiredness, headaches, and poor sleep
Cognitive | rumination, poor attention/concentration, and confusion
Emotional | irritability, anger, sadness, fear, and loss of control
Behavioural | isolation, increased substance use and social avoidance
Spiritual | questioning beliefs and a lack of trust
How to counter COVID fatigue
It is natural to feel a range of emotions associated with COVID and its impacts. The main factor we can change, to protect our health and wellbeing, is our behavioural response to emotions and what we do with them. Dr Russ Harris uses the acronym FACE COVID. This has been published worldwide and advises the following:
Focus on what’s in your control
Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings
Come back into your body
Engage in what you are doing
Disinfect and distance
A key thing to consider is whether symptoms, such as tiredness, irritability, and increased substance abuse, are increasing and impacting your daily functioning. If the answer is yes, we encourage you to seek support.
Building resilience – or the ability to recover and adjust from change – is crucial in today’s rapidly changing environment. Through resilience we build greater psychological flexibility, which could reduce the likelihood of issues such as COVID fatigue, burnout and compassion fatigue. The Mental Health Foundation has great resources for building resilience and enhancing wellbeing. Some key things to try and practice are: self-care, maintaining balance, staying connected to others, and being compassionate to yourself and others.
Health professionals working through a pandemic are at high risk of not only COVID fatigue but burn out and significant mental health morbidity. It is important to remember it is ok not to feel ok.
Look out for each other. Check in with colleagues. Take the time and prioritise yourself, practice self-compassion, lean on your support network, take breaks, take a mental health day or consider an extended weekend to rest and recharge. Seek professional help when needed.