Five Steps for Dealing with COVID Fatigue
The news stories play in our ears. The fear starts to rumble in our mind. Our body starts to tense up again and the worry and uncertainty starts. It has been two years of rollercoaster rides for everyone around the world and now we are enduring another wave of variants.
So what are some practical ways to manage this COVID fatigue?
Step One: Be aware of your personal response – Check in with yourself
We all respond differently and so it is important to be aware of how you may be reacting. Your body reacts even before you know it with the “fight, flight, or freeze” response. As you continue to have a high level of stressors in your body, you may have more persistent reactions that seem to invade your day. Your body starts to get tired as it is in overdrive for so long. Something has to give. You may start to recognize challenges with your ability to get things done each day.
Signs of COVID fatigue:
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia and nightmares)
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Mental and physical exhaustion, feeling burnt out or numb
- Loss of pleasure
- Loss of empathy
- Anger and resentment
- Physical symptoms like nausea, dizziness, and headaches
- Feeling symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, helpless, or powerless
- Feelings of detachment and increased self-isolation
- Loss of efficiency or productivity at work
- Decreased self-care
- Increased relationship conflicts at home and at work
Step Two: Activate your parasympathetic nervous system
When you realize that you are responding with this automatic response, it is important to give your body and your brain some downtime. This is the time to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest and digest” phase.
Research shows that we can change our body response with some simple activities. Note that the more you practice these strategies, the easier you will be able to use them when you need them.
Breathe – The most effective step in slowing down your body is to slow down your breathing. When we are stressed, we take fast and shallow breaths. Try box breathing – breathe in for four to six seconds, hold it deep in your belly for four to six seconds, breathe out for four to six seconds, and hold it for four to six seconds. Do this three to five times and you are activating your rest and digest system!
Ground Yourself – When you brain starts to spin with all your worries, try focusing on things that are concrete around you. Distract your brain by focusing on five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Activate your senses with some peaceful smells like essential oils or even a breath mint.
Practice Meditation and Mindfulness – When we worry, we are tending to focus on the future. Mindfulness and meditation practices help you to focus on the present. You can become more attuned to your body and allow some time away from the rush. There are many apps that can help with this process. Check out this list of some that may be helpful to try:
- Insight Timer (free)
- Five Minute Journal
- The Happiness Challenge
- Nicolette in the Now on Youtube
- Ten Percent Happier
- Find more app suggestions in our blog on How to Use Technology to Stay Mentally Well.
Exercise – Exercise will use our increased energy to work off the extra blood flow, oxygen and muscle tension that occurs when we are in “fight or flight.” Go for a brisk walk, do some jumping jacks, or have a dance party. These all will help you to get rid of that excess anxiousness in a positive way and when it’s over, your parasympathetic system will naturally take over. Over time it also helps with your sleep, energy, and your body’s health!
Step Three: Develop some ways to connect with others in a positive way
Isolation has become the biggest risk factor in declining mental health. Finding ways to stay connected might have been easier the first time around, but now we are tired of the Zoom connection and the social media. Our system needs connection with others. Unfortunately, many have turned to social media as that connection and the social media feeds have become increasingly negative. The news feeds focus on division, COVID numbers, and fear. What can you do to find positive inputs for your brain?
- Determine boundaries for any discussion – when the conversation goes to COVID, closures, anger at lockdowns, or controversy on vaccinations, ask that the focus return to positive things.
- Shut down social media and reach out to friends, family, or other supports by phone or creative physical distancing.
- Find a way to connect with others through gifts from a distance. Buy a meal for someone or volunteer to support a family dealing with childcare concerns. Helping others sends endorphins to the brain to create positive feelings.
- Make time for leisure activities. Join a friend for activities that you can lose yourself in or just take time for you to read or enjoy your favorite hobby.
Step Four: Realize that there are many things we cannot control, but what we can control is our mindset
- Shut off the news – The news focuses mainly on things that have already happened that are out of our control. Hearing the numbers increase or the plight of the health care system does not help you to stay well. If you are browsing the internet, find good news stories that will allow your brain to focus on the positive things in this world.
- Practice gratitude – Start a gratitude jar or journal that can help you to focus on the things that you are grateful for. Your brain will thank you.
- Focus on your goals for the future – What is one small step you can take today?
- Read a book that provides new learning.
- Develop hope and self-compassion – What can you look forward to in the future? What are the things that you can do to control your distress?
Step Five: Ask for help – We are not in this alone
- Identify and provide resources for those in distress, including yourself!
- Explore your EAP program and prepare a list of your local distress lines to have distress lines available:
- Canada suicide prevention service: 1-833-456-4566
- Talk to your manager and colleagues about what help you might need or changes at work that can help you manage your work-life balance.
- Arrange for more support and training for you and your employees with success coaching and mental health training virtual sessions. Seek support from an Occupational Therapist from Gowan Consulting by making a referral here or contact us to learn more.
How Can Gowan Consulting Help?
- Join our Free Webinar: 2021 in the Rearview Mirror and Lessons for 2022 to learn about hybrid workplace decisions, mental health concerns, inclusivity, and strategies to move forward in 2022.
- Are you a manager trying to build your skills in supporting employees with mental distress? Sign up for our Manager Mental Health Training, running all year long, Our next session takes place on February 17, 2022. Get a full list of dates and more information on the sessions here.
- Learn the nuts and bolts of setting up a home, hybrid, or mobile office in our workshop on Hybrid Office Ergonomics for the Health and Safety Professional.
- Watch Nicolette in the Now on YouTube for free guided meditations with Occupational Therapist Nicolette Gowan.
- Mental Health, Resilience and Stress Management Webinar: Learn the tools and strategies to manage stress and maintain your mental health!
- Manager’s Toolkit and Webinar – Our FREE Manager’s Toolkit now comes with a webinar to help provide strategies and resources for employees’ return to work post-quarantine.