Five tips to fight pandemic fatigue

People are done with window teddy bear hunts and virtual happy hours. Even if you remain diligent about hand hygiene and mask wearing (good for you!) you’ve probably at least been to a restaurant by now or visited with your friends or family.

What emerged months ago as pandemic-induced fear and uncertainty has given way for many to exhaustion and fatigue. Not the type of physical exhaustion caused by contracting the coronavirus, but pandemic fatigue.

If you’re fed up with masks, social distancing, and chapped, cracked hands from frequent sanitizing—you’re not alone. Everyone is tired of hearing about COVID-19 on the news or social media. After months of living with the pandemic, many have stopped focusing on the threat of a second, third or fourth wave of COVID-19.

We just want to get back to normal. That feeling is understandable and acceptable, but giving up is not.

Here are five things you should remember to help yourself combat COVID-19 fatigue.

1) Don’t expect normalcy right away in 2021.

There is no magic wand for January 1, 2021 that will make the pandemic disappear. We are learning more about the virus and the disease it causes every day, but masks and Zoom calls will still be a part of our life well into next year.

There is still much uncertainty around COVID-19, such as when we will have a vaccine or if people can become re-infected. We don’t yet have clear answers for those questions. But one thing we know is that this is not over yet, and we don’t know when it will end. Setting arbitrary deadlines for when things will go back to normal only sets you up for disappointment.

2) Self-care can help you manage stress and improve your health.

All of the changes to our daily lives and routines come with a toll: the American Psychological Association reports that stress levels are up significantly in 2020 compared to 2019, largely due to the pandemic and the uncertainty of what will happen next.

Focusing on the present instead of “when this all will end” is more than good advice—it’s good for your health too. Practicing mindfulness or improving your diet have positive short- and long-term effects on your physical health. With so much beyond our control right now, focusing on what you can control will improve your mood and lead to better overall wellness.

3) Connecting with people is more important than ever.

Hosting a party or going out on the town with a big group of friends is still very risky, but maintaining relationships with your friends and family can help with pandemic-related anxiety and depression.

The good news is there are plenty of safe ways to connect with those you love, and you don’t always have to do it through a screen.

Even if you’re exhausted after a long day of Zoom meetings or helping your child with virtual homework, a quick check-in with a close friend or family member can help reduce your stress levels—and will help the other person as well.

4) Your mask does not have to be a nuisance.

Few people like wearing a mask all the time. If your mask tends to be hot, uncomfortable or unpleasant, adding a few drops of essential oils may help. It’s also important to remember that all masks are not created equal. This graphic shows which type of mask is best:

Your mask is going to be a part of your routine for a long time, so find one that is comfortable and provides protection for you and others.

5) Don’t give up

No matter how tired you may be of hand sanitizer and social distance stickers on the ground, now is not the time to give up. Pandemic fatigue is real, and it poses a real threat to our ongoing work of curbing the spread of COVID-19.

We have to give public health officials, doctors, scientists, vaccine manufacturers, and all those working to fight COVID-19 the time they need to put an end to this pandemic.

By wearing a mask, keeping your distance and sanitizing your hands you are not only reducing your risk of getting sick, you are also protecting the health of others. These sacrifices are not selfish in nature—they are for the greater good of our families, our neighbors, our colleagues and our communities.

If everyone does their part to fight pandemic fatigue and continue fighting the spread of COVID-19, we will save lives.

Eventually the pandemic will be a distant memory. But for now: don’t give up the fight.