Let’s address the elephant in the room…Pandemic Fatigue. Whether you are a clinical front-line worker, a hospital volunteer, or you don’t work in the hospital setting at all…Pandemic Fatigue is a thing. And, it’s a thing that continues to push its thumb on the very pulse of our community and our country, day in and day out. It would probably be safe to say that at this point, there likely isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t hear about it.
So, what does Pandemic Fatigue encompass? The World Health Organization defines it as being demotivated and exhausted due to the demands of life during the COVID crisis. When this pandemic began, probably none of us imagined it would last as long as it has. While we cannot control the outcome or the duration, what can we do as humans, parents, spouses, friends and caregivers to manage our way through it and keep our head above water?
In times of great stress, which could be applied to many scenarios outside the pandemic, it is best to stick with what we know and what works for us in our normal daily routine. Whether that’s hopping on your Peloton at 5 am or sipping your coffee with your dog at 7 am…keep those practices intact. Those routines can prove to be a “safe space” for us when everything else going on in our world can feel turned upside down.
Now this is a small caveat to the above paragraph. If your morning routine includes watching the news or reading the newspaper, AND discovering news about COVID or Omicron or a surge or a vaccine bring you stress, it’s time to consider reducing time spent with that source, or eliminating it all together. Being informed is one thing, and that is important. How do you know when to draw the line? If you come across information and it leaves a pit feeling in your stomach that lingers, or it drastically impacts how you start your day, or it changes your mood significantly in a negative way, that’s when you need to be mindful of its impact. Have you heard the saying, “what you focus on expands”? It is so true. Pay close attention to what you feed your brain – news, social media, or even conversations with people who may be stuck or hyper-focused on all things pandemic. You might even think about it as a diet for your brain. If you are experiencing Pandemic Fatigue, it is key that you are intentional about finding things in your day that feed your joy and help you focus on what is positive.
Have you taken the survey that asks if you have a best friend at work? There’s a reason for that. During stressful times, especially something like Pandemic Fatigue, it is important to lean on the people you know best in your work environment. During times when stress is high, and energy is low, it’s not an ideal time to forge new friendships, and frankly, that can sound exhausting. Talking with your co-workers, especially if they are trustworthy and are experiencing the same type of feelings, can be a strong bond in times of stress, and a bond that doesn’t take a lot of extra effort. These strong bonds at work help us feel like we are part of a bigger picture and are united on the same front – the very truth that helps get through trying times during a pandemic. When it comes to leaning on co-workers, make sure it is reciprocated. On days when you’re feeling a little stronger, let your work friends know they can lean on you too.
When you fly on an airplane and they tell you during the safety presentation to put your mask on first before helping your neighbor during a crisis – the same applies here. Even when you may not feel like it…you must take care of yourself. Keep it simple and focus on the basics:
Kindness is king. Hopefully every one of you have experienced some random act of kindness that has washed away even the worst day. The best way to shift your focus off something negative, is to do something kind for someone else. This act of kindness can be easy – anything from leaving an uplifting sticky note on your co-worker’s desk, to buying a cup of coffee for the car behind you in the drive-thru. Want to go bigger? Find a cause important to you and volunteer an hour or two to help.
Consider spreading kindness your daily “homework assignment.” If you’re a parent, think about giving the same assignment to your child. At the end of the day, compare your stories and share how it made you feel.
Pandemic Fatigue is real to so many people in the world right now, whether you work in healthcare or not. It’s important to remember that while we cannot control the pandemic, we can control how we respond to it. Checking in with the tips above will help you to stay the course, and persevere even on the toughest days.