Flattening the mental health curve is another challenge brought about by the coronavirus — this time, through a phenomenon called pandemic fatigue. This is the kind of fatigue that comes from the stress of social distancing, wearing a mask, constant caution and missing out on so many activities we’re used to participating in. On top of these factors, there’s pressure to make health-related behavior changes, such as increasing physical activity, eating healthy and quitting smoking. And on top of all of this, there are also widespread job losses, schooling and childcare challenges and general uncertainty about the future. It’s all just too taxing for the mental health of people everywhere, leading (quite understandably) to bouts of loneliness, depression, fear and anxiety.
The impact of pandemic fatigue is even greater on racial and ethnic minorities, who are more likely to have low-wage jobs or be laid off due to the economic slump. These disenfranchised communities also have greater health risks as essential workers with more exposure to the virus, but are less likely to have health insurance or access to medical care.
Moreover, the Center for American Progress reported on higher unemployment rates for same-sex couples even before the pandemic. And while there’s no data yet on the impact of the current pandemic fatigue on LGBTQ+ minorities, history can show how they’ll be disproportionately affected and will take longer to recover, too.
All of this is why it’s crucial for people in these minority groups or otherwise to make the necessary changes to cope with the current crisis from a mental perspective. Finding ways to combat pandemic fatigue can be more difficult than it may sound, but by implementing a few appealing strategies, anyone suffering from this affliction can begin to turn the tide. To that end, we want to suggest five important recommendations for ways to overcome the fatigue and start to ease into a better mental place.
1) Accept negative emotions
The first recommendation is to be honest about bottled-up emotions like anxiety and uncertainty. Don’t be afraid to recognize these emotions in yourself, or to talk about them with others. It’s not always appealing to do so, but speaking some of this negativity aloud can help to get it out of your system. You’ll be consciously releasing the emotion through communication with friends, family members or even colleagues. And while this process doesn’t fix everything completely or immediately, the relief can be very real. Bottling things up results in a mental and emotional weight that you could almost swear you feel physically. Letting some of that “weight” off is an idea worth focusing on.
2) Ask for help
Although it’s good to express difficulties and address mental fatigue on your own, it’s also good to ask for help if you feel you may need it. People experiencing pandemic fatigue don’t have to be afraid to seek support from mental health professionals. In some cases this can happen through work-related wellness programs. Alan Kohll of TotalWellness advocates for workplaces that support mental health, where there could be awareness, training, mental health policies, fair treatment and screening resources. All of this seems even more worthwhile for companies to consider looking into in light of COVID-19. Even if you don’t have a support structure like this available from your place of work (or your school for that matter), you should seek professional help if you think you need it. Today, apps and online programs have made it easier than ever before to contact professional therapists and begin to work on mental health.
3) Prioritize self-care
People suffering from pandemic fatigue should also take time to prioritize self-care. If you’re pressed for time or energy, then even just a few seconds of deep breathing or 10 minutes of yoga can do the trick. Simple practices like these can make a meaningful difference by reducing stress and improving your mood, effectively serving as midday “resets.” On the other hand, if you have a little bit more time and energy for taking care of yourself, more in-depth routines and other at-home exercises can essentially expand on the benefits. You’ve heard it before, but working out and improving your physical health really does have enormous bearing on your mental health as well.
4) Pursue personal improvement
While we wouldn’t suggest you overwork yourself if stressed, personal betterment can be an excellent way to tap into fresh energy and positivity. We often feel better about ourselves when we’re learning and improving, and finding a way to do so from home can be an effective strategy against pandemic fatigue. The most direct option is to take classes or pursue a degree online. An overarching look at online master’s programs by Maryville University makes clear that there are numerous subjects to study, and a variety of post-graduate degrees you can earn entirely online. Whether your interest lies in business, education, software development or any of a range of other subjects, you can get started soon and feel a sense of accomplishment almost immediately. Alternatively if you’d rather opt for a simper form of self-betterment, there is also limitless education you can work through online without pursuing a formal degree, from TED talks to paid courses. In either case, learning and improving may just boost your mental outlook.
5) Find ways to get away
Our last recommendation is to find ways to get away. Understandably, many have essentially given up on the idea of vacationing, or really enjoying much activity outside of the house at all. To the extent this keeps you safe, we support that you keep doing it, even if it does contribute to pandemic fatigue. On the other hand, our examination of ‘Pandemic-Appropriate Day Trip Destinations’ spoke to a few safer options that you might be able to explore. Granted, North Carolina is blessed with trails, beaches, mountains, waterfalls and the like, where you can get out of the house for a day without social contact and refresh yourself in nature. But wherever you may live, it’s worth trying to think of some similarly safe day trips. They can work wonders for your mental state.
Always remember that we’re all in this together, and your struggles — while very real — are not isolated. Never hesitate to reach out, and don’t let yourself think that you alone are struggling. Recognize the reality and take small, tangible steps to address mental fatigue and general wellness, and we believe you’ll start to feel a little bit better.
Cristy Canes is a freelance health writer who covers the latest trends in healthcare. With 2020 being such a tough year, she hopes her articles bring people hope on how to move forward. In her free time she sails and hikes.
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