by Marie Vakakis
We all know we are living through a global health crisis. We keep hearing about it daily, sometimes hourly: on the news, on radio, in our inboxes, and on our socials. All of this can take a toll on our physical and mental well-being.
With the looming threat of another lockdown always around the corner, the stress and worry slowly build up. Then it happens – we are in lockdown. For many of us, being in lockdown means we are physically doing far less than we used to. We may not have to commute, we may get to sleep-in a little, but we’re generally a little less active. Yet, we can be left feeling exhausted and run down.
This can be due to lockdown fatigue, which has been described as a state of exhaustion caused by the long-term impact of quarantining and isolation. When our bodies and minds are adapting to constant change and uncertainty, it’s natural to feel fatigued from trying to keep it together. We have all heard the comments, ”we need to adjust to the new normal”, but how do you adjust to an ever-changing situation where the new normal is full of indefinite uncertainty? This can leave us feeling stressed, anxious or depressed. Some of the symptoms of lockdown fatigue that you may be experiencing include:
- Feelings of sadness and irritability
- Depression, anxiety, fear, and panic
- Physical exhaustion and burnout
- Difficulty focusing, concentrating, prioritising, problem-solving, and making decisions
- Lack of motivation and reduced interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Difficulty in maintaining a routine
- Difficulty sleeping. You may have too little or too much.
- Most of us will be feeling a degree of anxiety and it is likely to affect the quality and duration of our sleep
So why does this happen? Why does our body feel tired when we’re not doing that much?
When we face psychological stressors, our bodies have a physiological response. Yep, that’s right, our body has a physical response to psychological stress. We enter a fight or flight response; our body makes hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare the body for emergency action. Our heart pounds faster, our muscles tighten, our blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and our senses become sharper. This is great if you need to run away from a threat, however, what happens if this stretches out indefinitely?
How to deal with lockdown fatigue:
This current lockdown will eventually be over, but the effects may remain for some of us for a while, so here are some tips to think about over the coming weeks:
- Improve your sleep: Try to go to bed at around the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning. Leave your phone and other devices out of the bedroom.
- Be kind to yourself/self-compassion: Accept the fact that’s OK not to feel OK. It’s OK that you can’t be productive. It’s OK to feel tired, sad, anxious or frustrated. Try not to be critical or judge yourself.
- Exercise and eat well: moving your body is one of the best ways to help your body cope with the physiological effects of stress. Try moving several times a day, go for a walk, have a little dance, do some star jumps, anything you can to get your body moving.
- Create a routine for sleep, meals, work, rest, and exercise. If you like an afternoon walk and a coffee, try and replicate this at home, maybe make one and drink it on a walk, maybe there’s a cafe nearby for take away. Try a routine to structure your day.
- Make an effort to stay connected, making the most of technology. Call people, video call whatever you can to try and stay connected.
- Relax: yes, even though you’re not feeling productive, you still need to make time to relax, and to lower stress levels. Set aside time in your day for the things you enjoy, reading, cooking, gardening, playing games, doing puzzles, or craftwork.
- Seek professional help: It may be time to chat to a GP to check there are no underlying health issues that may need to be addressed and to discuss the option of speaking to a mental health professional.
Marie Vakakis is Director of The Therapy Hub and an accredited Mental Health Social Worker and Clinical Family Therapist.