The focus during COVID-19 has been on vaccination and other attempts at “firefighting.” Meanwhile, front-liners and primary caregivers at home are dealing with COVID fatigue and left to their own devices.
In an online teaching session by Dr. Annette Bautista, a neuropsychiatrist, members of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals Alabang East chapter learned about four kinds of pandemic fatigue and how to handle them.
“There’s always someone asking for help, for donations,” said Bautista. “At first you’re eager to help; then, even if you want to, you get tired.”
You may be experiencing compassion fatigue, she said. Bautista explained that, at first, you’re idealistic: You’re committed, available, ready to make a difference and have unending enthusiasm. Then, you go through withdrawal: Your enthusiasm turns sour; you complain about work, are often tired and neglect family, others and yourself.
Then you get irritable: You start avoiding contact, lose your sense of humor and can’t concentrate. Last is the zombie phase: All hopelessness turns to rage; you start hating people and may even become incompetent.
How do you prevent compassion fatigue? Bautista said, “Learn to develop a ‘nonanxious presence,’ the ability to maintain a peacefulness within yourself. Rather than being angry, anxious, frustrated or confused, self-regulate so you can be calm when needed.”
She recommended meditation, yoga, prayer, relaxation exercises and changing your perspective. “See the world differently. Realize that the work you do is good enough,” she said.
Hitting a pandemic wall
Working from home can also give you Zoom fatigue. Intense and excessive close-up eye contact, seeing oneself during video chats constantly in real-time, reduction in usual mobility and higher cognitive load from video chats can cause it.
How to deal? Bautista advised taking Zoom out of full screen, using an external keyboard to increase personal space, selecting “hide self-view,” creating distance and flexibility by going off-cam and giving yourself “audio only” breaks.
Then, there’s social media fatigue, the tendency to withdraw from social media because of feeling overwhelmed. Behavioral signs include procrastination, lack of focus and temporary amnesia.
How to overcome it? Dr. Pragya Agarwal (2021) suggested stepping away (read a book; walk the dog). Be selective in choosing channels with useful, less stressful content. Post only if you have something to say. A solid network of 200 is better than thousands that can breed envy, competition and depression. Be creative: Write in a diary. Take up pottery, plants or art. Be authentic.
Lastly, lockdown fatigue is the exhaustion caused by long-term isolation and quarantine. You sometimes get paralyzing feelings of apathy and lethargy in the wake of another lockdown, like hitting a “pandemic wall.” You’re sad and irritable, depressed, anxious, suffer from fear, burnout, physical exhaustion, have difficulty focusing, making decisions, sleeping or making a routine.
It’s caused by not being able to do what you want, being cooped up, being sick of being cautious, having to home-school kids while working from home, being cut off from normal social interaction, feeling uncertain of employment or financial situation, not seeing the end of these changes, worrying about what the world will be after COVID-19, hearing about people “not doing the right thing,” inconsistent messages from leaders and politicians, and being bombarded by COVID-19 information.
Be kind to self, others
“When snap lockdown happens, it isn’t just the aggravation and irritation of sudden changes in plans. It is more a post-traumatic stress type response. People get thrown back into reliving what happened last year. We get more and more anger responses as well. People are tired,” said Monash University psychiatry professor Jayashi Kulkarni.
To address this, the Australian Psychological Society recommends accepting that though you want normalcy soon, it’s only possible when it’s safe. Be kind to yourself and others. Recognize you are tired. Admit your feelings and try not to be hard on yourself. Make the most of any chance to communicate. Connect. Make time to relax. Balance negative thoughts with positive ones. Look after yourself: Eat sensibly; get regular exercise; keep active; sleep well; drink plenty of water; get fresh air and sun.
How else can we stay sane during the pandemic? Bautista shared these tips:
- Exercise to release endorphins.
- Talk. Find the right place and time to say things out loud. Ignoring feelings won’t make them go away.
- Think constructively. We can’t change the situation but we can adjust our thinking. Be compassionate to yourself.
- Connect with your feelings. Give time to ask yourself how you feel every day. Don’t try to rationalize every emotion.
- Be mindful and grateful. The more you do this, the easier it gets. Try being in the moment.
“We can get back to before by following health guidelines. Control the things you can,” she added. —CONTRIBUTED INQ