Pandemic fatigue, also known as COVID fatigue, is an emerging topic across the country as the United States approaches the seven month mark of the national emergency and its accompanying restrictions.
The fatigue is becoming more common throughout the New River Valley and has resulted in an increase of people gathering together in large groups, according to a recent update from Noelle Bissell, New River Health District director. And though it is evident in a relatively small number of residents, the impact of pandemic fatigue can be widespread.
If left unchecked, this weariness can become overwhelming and grow into apathy toward those same public health guidelines that have thus far helped mitigate many widespread outbreaks.
“What I think is really difficult with this, is it’s just such an ambiguous situation,” said Charles Calderwood, assistant professor in the VT Department of Psychology, speaking of the pandemic. “We don’t know when it’s going to end. We don’t know how it’s going to end. That makes it difficult in our day-to-day lives to see tangible progress.”
Calderwood, whose research focuses on how employees perceive, respond to and recover from workplace stress, said the pandemic situation has many similarities to the type of burnout many people experience in the workplace.
“One of the hardest situations we face from a work stress standpoint is when we have the ability, we have the motivation, but we just can’t see progress,” said Calderwood. “This can undercut both performance and motivation.”
Generally, there are both psychological and physical pathways to overcoming this burnout. For the former, Calderwood suggests individuals ensure they are setting aside time each day to relax and/or do something they enjoy, and to be purposeful about connecting with others, even if it seems hard.
“Some of the novelty has worn off of stuff like virtual dinner parties, but the lack of social connection is really something that can be problematic,” he said. “I think we really have to try to make those things a priority, even if they feel forced.”
Calderwood also encourages individuals to see the connection between their physical wellbeing and their mental and emotional wellbeing.
“Really, it’s just trying to say, ‘It’s important to me that I exercise, eat well, and sleep enough,’” he said. “You’d be surprised how impactful that will be to how you feel.”
Calderwood’s advice mirrors some tips provided by Swathi Prabhu, Hokie Wellness’s mental health initiatives coordinator. Prabhu suggested 10 questions that can serve as a great daily check-in for individuals of any age: 1) Does my body feel rested today? 2) Have I met by body’s energy needs today with nutrient-rich foods? 3) Have I moved my body in ways that feel good today (not just for the sake of exercise)? 4) Have I done anything purely for enjoyment today? 5) Have I connected with a friend or family member today? 6) Have I varied my activities and work today? 7) Have I gotten fresh air today? 8) What is one success I’ve had today? 9) What is one challenge I’ve learned from today? 10) Have I helped or supported anyone today?
— Written by Travis Williams