Feeling Exhausted? It Might Be Pandemic Fatigue

Oct 02, 2020

Social distancing is one of the most effective ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Staying apart has saved lives.

But now, six months into these measures, we are still working our way through reopening and an eventual return to normal. As a result, many of us are experiencing “quarantine fatigue”—a state also known as “caution fatigue.”

“Anytime we’re in an advanced state of awareness for a prolonged period of time, our bodies slip into a ‘fight or flight’ response,” explains Glenn Armstrong, nurse practitioner and lead advanced practice provider with Kettering Physician Network Behavioral Health. “Humans are social beings by nature, and when we take that away, it creates a drain on the human condition. And with that comes a cluster of symptoms.”

These symptoms can include

  • Increased irritability
  • Low mood
  • Depression
  • Trouble sleeping or oversleeping
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Feeling run-down
  • Lack of motivation

Glenn stresses, however, that while these symptoms can closely mimic a mental health disorder, “the fact is that it’s not a disorder—it’s a normal response to an abnormal situation.”

To get through it, Glenn offers this advice:

Change your thinking. You are helping to slow the spread of the virus by social distancing. You are making a difference. Try to focus on the good you're doing. “Folks who voluntarily quarantine, versus those who feel it’s a mandate or are forced into it, generally respond better because it comes from an altruistic part of us,” Glenn says.

Keep a routine. Make your days as scheduled and as similar as possible to life before quarantine, Glenn advises. “Even if you don’t have to go in to work, still maintain a set bedtime, a set waking time, scheduled mealtimes.”

Reach out. If you can't be with loved ones, stay in touch with calls, video chats or social media. ”Technology is a great and wonderful thing,” Glenn says. “It’s not the same as being in someone’s presence, but we’re doing ourselves a disservice [if we don’t] reach out because it’s not the same.”

Practice self-care. Wash hands often, eat a balanced diet, get adequate sleep and stay hydrated. Also stay active—exercise lowers stress and lifts your mood. “Get out into the sunshine when you can,” Glenn advises.

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