If you’re finding it hard to keep up with pandemic precautions, you might be feeling “COVID fatigue.” If so, you’re not alone. After so many months of hand washing, staying home, avoiding family and friends and even disinfecting around the house, who can blame you?
I know I have let things slip. In March, I began disinfecting major touch points in my house daily, from doorknobs to cell phones. I do it a lot less now.
For most people, COVID fatigue is a reflection of how challenging behaviour change is. I mean efforts like quitting smoking, beginning an exercise routine or dieting to lose weight. In the beginning it’s easy to make lifestyle changes. Even a number of drastic ones can be sustained over the short term.
But over the long term it can be hard. And the more new behaviours you undertake, the harder it can be.
Tips to stay on track
If you, or someone close to you, is experiencing COVID fatigue, there are a number of things you can do. These tips are similar to tactics for managing anxiety, as the two are closely related.
- Be physically active: Exercise is a great coping mechanism in which the impacts on your mood and outlook are usually immediate.
- Talk to others: Discussing how you feel and the challenges you are having can be therapeutic. Often you find out what you’re experiencing is common. Even talking out loud to yourself can help.
It can help to write down your commitment to new behaviours.
Dr. Scott Lear
- Think differently: This may be easier said than done, but realize there are some things you can’t control, such as rising case numbers or the behaviour of other people. Instead, focus on the things you can — for example, restricting your grocery shopping to once a week. And recognize that we’re in an ever-changing world, which may be quite different three months from now.
- Practice mindfulness and meditation: This allows you to be in the present moment, and not worry about the future or fret over the past. It can be done anytime and anywhere, and the more you practice, the better you get.
- Give yourself a COVID break: Limit how and when you consume news about the pandemic; that includes social media. Also, avoid getting into online arguments with people who have different views. It’s unlikely to change their minds and may just make you angry.
- Turn COVID precautions into a habit: Write down your commitment to new behaviours such as always having a mask and hand sanitizer when you go out. Specify what they mean to you — for example, you are keeping others in your community safe. Set up cues in your home, such as a basket for clean masks by the front door, to remind you and turn those behaviours into a habit.
While the pandemic may be a challenge for some time, as Dr. Anthony Fauci has said, “We will get out of this and we will return to normal. Don’t give up. Don’t despair. Don’t throw caution to the wind. We can end this.”
Dr. Scott Lear is a leading researcher in the prevention and management of heart disease. He holds the Pfizer/Heart and Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, and he is a professor in the faculty of health sciences and the department of biomedical physiology and kinesiology at Simon Fraser University. Dr. Lear also lives with heart disease himself. Follow his blog at drscottlear.com.