COVID Fatigue: How to Take Charge

With the holidays upon us, and nine months into COVID-19 restrictions, most of us are
experiencing COVID Fatigue.

As individuals and members of a family, community, nation and world, we are all grieving the loss of life as we knew it. Even those of us who think we are good at coping and accepting what our lives have become, fatigue is very much a part of being human. The fatigue comes not only from the actual losses, but also the resistance to accepting the reality of what we are living with, that we never before experienced in any of our lifetimes. The last stage of the grieving process is acceptance. It appears that many, if not most of us, have not gotten there yet.

A certain amount of denial can be helpful—too much denial, not so helpful. If you are denying you have any of the feelings listed in the next paragraph, you may be suppressing feelings that need to be acknowledged, and will turn into depression or acting out in ways that are unproductive and unhealthy. People who are not complying with safety measures such as wearing masks and social distancing are in denial, usually believing they won’t become ill. Some of these deniers are also acting out of frustration and anger which makes them feel powerless, and thinking their denial gives them power.

Set peace of mind as your highest goal, and organize your life around it.” — Brian Tracy

The key to taking charge of your life and maintaining well-being is to allow yourself to go through the stages of the grieving process: shock, denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance. We are grieving—the loss of our life as we knew it, the comfort of familiar activities, routines, relationships and predictability. Suppressing these human feelings will only cause them to come out in indirect ways, often ways that will create further distress in your life, such as increased anger, depression, frustration, lack of tolerance for yourself and/or others, and poor decision-making.

Central to taking charge of your life is to get to the stage of acceptance, which usually only happens once you navigate the other stages. Each of us has our own timeline as to how we move through the stages of denial, anger, and bargaining. It’s a real timeline, based on how willing you are to acknowledge your feelings and learn to not only cope with the reality of your life now, but also to find new ways of appreciating and enjoying life.

In contrast to grieving over the loss of a loved one, when acceptance comes with the recognition of the loss as being permanent, COVID is temporary. Because we hold out the hope and recognition that with a vaccine, the loss won’t be permanent, we may be less tolerant. However, the loss we are experiencing right now is real, and we need to focus on how to live with and make the most of it, however temporary it may be. COVID fatigue will not just go away if we don’t face the truth of our circumstance.

We need to take charge of our feelings by acknowledging them but not allowing them to have an outsize influence on our lives.

Worry is like a rocking chair:  It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere   — Erma Bombeck

First Steps: (the goal is to take a step back and notice as an observer, without judgment)
Take notes to improve clarity!

• What do you notice about your ability to focus on your work and daily responsibilities?
• What do you notice about your ability to tolerate and understand how others in your life are doing? How have your relationships with family and friends changed?
• What do you notice about what you are feeling and what you do with those feelings?
• What is the extent of your fears and how they are influencing your behavior?
• What do you notice about how you are handling conflict? (e.g. more avoidance than usual, engaging in conflict more often, less tolerance for words or actions of others)
• What do you notice about how often you reach for mindless distractions? (eg. time on social media, sleeping, eating too much or unhealthy foods, etc.)
• What do you notice about changes in activities not directly related to COVID guidelines?
• What might you be avoiding that you need to attend to? (e.g. work, relationships, exercise, household and/or personal maintenance)
• What do you notice about your level of satisfaction—or boredom, with your free time?
• What do you notice about giving yourself some slack—taking advantage of extra time to read more, learn more, exercise more, pursue activities you’ve been missing, staying in contact with people you care about, appreciating being at home more, avoiding self-judgment about “shoulds,” recognizing that pampering yourself can be a healthy way to respond to all the ways you are feeling deprived out of necessity.

When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your true power is.”    —  Karen Salmansohn

Next Steps:

• Which of the above rank the highest in frequency or intensity? Rate each one in order of degree of distress.
• Pick one item and ask your brain what’s the best way to deal with it.
• Ask your brain to describe what to do about your fears and to assess how realistic they are.
(e.g. if you follow all the precautions, how much will that reduce your fears?)
• Ask your brain to acknowledge your feelings and then let go—or at least ease up!
• What steps will you take to make improvements? Make them small steps so they are manageable, and increase the likelihood of you following through.
• What activities and/or attitudes will you use to replace your negative thoughts and actions? (one common reason changing habits or attitudes doesn’t succeed is due to not replacing the negatives with something different and preferable)
• Boredom produces fatigue—what can you do to reduce your boredom? Start with some stream of consciousness writing, see where it takes you. Replace the activities that create boredom with activities that are challenging, creative, fun, or new. These can be writing poetry or even an article or book, taking up playing a musical instrument, learning to dance or a new language, gardening, or a craft, cooking new recipes, writing a handwritten note to a friend or relative, taking a class online in something that interests you. Don’t let discomfort stop you!
• Promise yourself you will notice when you are judging yourself—or others and let go of it.
• Decide what kind of reward you will give yourself for each step of progress—and take it!

Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t”.  — Nikki Rogers

When COVID becomes something in our past, how will you look at what you did with your time, both mentally and physically? Imagine yourself in that future time and look at how well you managed and survived. From your future perspective, think about what you would have done differently, even if you believe you would have liked to and couldn’t. COVID, with all it’s frightening and negative effects, does provide us with an opportunity to reflect and reevaluate how we were living our lives before this happened, and how, because of it, we can make our lives better.

If you feel like you’re losing everything, remember trees lose their leaves every year, and they stand tall and wait for better days to come”.  – NotSalmon.com

I hope this has given you some food for thought. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.

And, if there are any subjects you’d like me to write about, I’d be interested in knowing what they are.

If you’d like to gain some wisdom in parenting, check out my book, “Your Living Legacy, How Your Parenting Style Shapes the Future for You and Your Child.” Available on Amazon.

Feel free to send this to anyone you think might be interested.

Best,
Shelli