Quarantine fatigue isn’t just about the restlessness of being isolated from friends and family or missing your favorite Friday night outing, it’s about literal body fatigue.
Plus, this fatigue doesn’t have one simple culprit — the pandemic — but can be caused by a wide variety of factors, from anxiety and stress to lack of socializing. Those of us working at home offices are beginning to report increased body aches — bet you’re missing that ergonomic workspace! — and eye strain which leads to reoccurring headaches. Even introverted people who don’t regularly socialize are showing signs of needing human connection as counselors report more of them reaching out.
With that said, allowing quarantine fatigue to break our spirits and compromise the shelter-in-place guidelines is definitely not the answer! It’s time that we all check-in with ourselves, get real, and start strategizing how to move forward by actively infusing self-care into our daily routine.
Quarantine fatigue is exactly as it sounds — physical and mental fatigue caused by the shelter-in-place and quarantine regulations of the pandemic. It’s completely real and 100 percent debilitating.
Quarantine fatigue refers to the “profound burden of extreme physical and social distancing.” Yet, it’s not just the distance. Quarantine fatigue is also being caused by the economic hardships that have come with all businesses — save essential businesses — shuttering their doors.
The combination of psychological and physical stressors has increased anxiety, depression, and aggravated mental health disorders across the country and the globe.
In the beginning, most of us took this as a challenge to be met! Virtual platforms were busting open, online classes were brimming, streaming services were offering more, entertainment platforms and educational institutions were offering their hand in the game with free services, and even gyms and exercise apps hopped on board.
By now, we’re tired. We miss our old lives, our old routines, and our people.
This is quarantine fatigue and it’s time we address it head-on and figure out how to tackle this new challenge!
What is Causing Quarantine Fatigue?
Alright, you thought you always were a loner, but all of a sudden you’re finding yourself missing those moments of social frustration at the grocery store, out to dinner, or at the local coffee shop. Maybe you are a social butterfly and have been avidly video chatting for months, but something just isn’t feeling right anymore.
No matter where you land on the spectrum, you’re still human and that means you inherently need other people. It’s just how we’re made!
Yet, quarantine fatigue is so virulent because it affects what makes us … well … human. It’s much more than social distancing, but also missing out on experiences and interrupting our body’s natural rhythm of life.
The first step in tackling quarantine fatigue is figuring out what’s causing it! Let’s take a look at some of the most common causal factors right now.
Will This End?
We’re pretty used to fast-moving disasters. Think about natural disasters; they generally sweep through and we can begin to rebuild immediately. Even though there are absolutely long-lasting effects on society and communities, the physical aspect of most disasters makes it possible for us to mourn appropriately, pick ourselves up, and move forward with healing.
Unfortunately, we’re learning with a pandemic, the process is different.
We are being told that many of the drastic changes to our livelihoods — social distancing, working from home, nixing in-dining experiences, traveling, etc. — will be with us for the foreseeable future. Add to this the daily growing statistics of infections and deaths and it’s near impossible to even begin to mourn or heal from this ongoing disaster.
Yes, we can virtually chat with family, friends, and coworkers. It’s even commonplace to virtually chat with a therapist, doctor, or any other number of professionals.
Yet, it’s simply not the same.
Physical support — shaking hands, receiving/giving hugs, kissing cheeks, sitting next to a person — are all integral intimacies that make us feel better and help us heal. Due to social distancing, unless you live with someone you are quarantining with, this physical support is pretty much nixed in the age of the Coronavirus.
Routines are an essential part of mental health.
Even for those that live a chaotic life, that chaos is in fact their “normal” or “routine.”
Routines help keep our circadian rhythms in check, which helps us sleep. They help decrease feelings of stress and anxiety by creating structure around uncertainty. For those with children, it allows expectancy to be met with solid goals and guidelines throughout the day. Plus, routines allow people to schedule their personal needs around the necessities of life. For instance, at one point we were able to schedule self-care moments separate from work, alone time while kids were at school or play dates, and fun activities that were obviously separate from “work time.”
Our environment has now been drastically reduced from an entire community, town, or city to your home, the grocery store, and maybe a local park.
Our routines are no longer distinguished by the coming and going of certain places, but by strict adherence to timelines, household rooms, backyard time, or walks around the neighborhood.
It’s manageable, yet most of us are craving the routine that we once had!
10 Ways to Cope
If you’re able to identify why you’re beginning to feel quarantine fatigue, then it may be a bit easier to incorporate some coping techniques to get you through! While there may be no definitive end in sight, there are ways to make shelter-at-home more manageable. Here are a few ideas to get you feeling just a little better immediately!
1. Take it One Day at a Time
You may be the most proficient planner in the world, yet long-term planning right now won’t do your mental health any good.
One of the best techniques for dealing with quarantine fatigue is to take it day-by-day.
Per Paul Hokemeyer, PhD — a psychotherapist and author of Fragile Power — “think of your life in 24-hour periods … Thinking of your time inside in terms of days rather than weeks can make it feel more manageable.” Hokemeyer also recommends building a routine in which you “get up at the same time of day … take a shower, put on makeup or shave, put on an outfit that makes you feel good … [and] articulate [two] goals that you want to accomplish that day and do them.” Hokemeyer also suggests “closing down” for the evening and making this your relaxation time separate from work, goals, or any other daily activities you participate in at home.
2. Begin Journaling
You haven’t written in a journal or diary since you were young. Maybe you never have, it just wasn’t your thing. Well, it may have taken a pandemic, but now’s the time to start!
Even though you may make the connection between journaling and youth, writing down your thoughts is a widely used mental health tool that can be incredibly beneficial, especially during turbulent times such as these.
Journaling can help manage anxiety, reduce stress, and cope with depression, as well as helps boost your overall mood by allowing a safe and private space to prioritize fears or concerns, track day-to-day feelings or symptoms, and identify negative thoughts or behaviors that may be rooting and becoming more prominent.
Plus, you can use journaling as an opportunity to schedule in some self-care time every day! Journaling can be a form of relaxation and even meditation. Take a few minutes to empty your brain before bed and get a better night’s sleep or even start the day off by dumping the load on your shoulders and moving forward fresh!
3. Find Creative Outlets
While it’s important to make sure you’re optimizing self-care time — taking into account that you are overall stressed, anxious, and experiencing varying levels of trauma from the pandemic situation — it’s also important to not give in to lethargy.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to organize your entire house or learn an entirely new trait with your extra time. With that said, finding a creative outlet is a great way to help cope with quarantine fatigue.
Whether it’s writing, flower arrangement, reading, trying a musical instrument, building a website, gardening, taking up origami, or any other of a thousand creative activities!
4. Start and/or Stay Physically Active
You knew this one would be on the list!
Physical activity may be one of the most important things you can do to combat quarantine fatigue. It not only fills time during the day where your brain is completely engaged in something other than quarantine, but it also boosts blood circulation, releases endorphins, increases energy, and helps you retain or gain optimal health.
There are a ton of resources available right now for those of who want to work out indoors such as these online exercise apps and gyms offering virtual classes.
With that said, the weather is getting warm and the sun is shining more often, therefore take this as an opportunity to get outside and soak up some vitamin D! Go for a long walk, jog, or run! Visit your local park or take a trip to your own backyard for that pilates, yoga, or boxing virtual class.
Just make sure you’re following those incredibly important social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines for your specific city or town.
5. Stimulate Your Brain Daily
For those of us that are working from home, this one is inherently built into our shelter-at-home schedules.
Yet, there are a handful of us that have been furloughed, put on paid or unpaid leave, or have been laid-off-altogether. Whether you’re working or not, mental stimulation is incredibly important for mental health and fighting quarantine fatigue!
Specifically, it’s important to activate your mind with some that is not pandemic related! This can be any sort of stimulation from reading to word games to brain teasers to learning a new language or even talking up a hobby. Don’t think about the creativity level of the stimulation, just make sure that your brain is running those gears!
6. Take Virtual Socializing to the Next Step
Virtual chats were all the rage for the first month, but now, let’s face it, you’re virtually chatted out!
If you find yourself not enjoying those virtual chats as much as you used to, maybe it’s time to spice things up and take your virtual socializing up a notch?
You can do this by organizing virtual social gatherings and activities! Some of the most popular virtual gatherings include happy hour or dinner, — everyone makes their own dish and brings their own beverage — picnics, — this is a great idea as the weather warms up! — book clubs, wine and/or beer tasting party, game nights, viewing parties, — for your favorite show or movie — and even virtual music meetups, — a great way to find new music and share your favorite artists!
7. Create “End of Quarantine” Goals
While long-term planning should be nixed, setting some goals that you’d like to meet by the end of quarantine is a great way to boost productivity and give your days more purpose, while also instilling the idea that the pandemic isn’t forever.
These can be goals that were abandoned in the chaos of the COVID-19 outbreak in your area or brand new goals that have manifested during your shelter-in-place space. You can also use this time to realign goals for the next year and begin developing plans around making them more achievable in this new environment including financial plans — saving money, buying a home, selling a home, investing, etc. — or something more creative like taking steps towards a new career path.
8. Make New Friends
Social media isn’t just about keeping in touch with current friends, family, and coworkers or following your favorite food blogger or journalist. It’s also about connecting with new people and organizations! Most of us are completely burnt out on virtual socializing by this point — even though it’s incredibly important! — so why not take it to the next level, reach out, and make a new connection?
By making a new connection, you can help break the cycle of virtual chat burnout, while also invigorating your mind with new information, and stimulating that social desire.
9. Seek Professional Help
Family and friends can be incredible allies during the quarantine, but, remember, they are also dealing with most of the same troubles that you are.
Therefore, if you feel like quarantine fatigue is beginning to severely and negatively impact your ability to enjoy day-to-day life then it may be time to reach out for help. Therapists, counselors, and helplines are all available virtually or by phone and are excellent resources to help you get back on track, lay your troubles, and work through what’s going on in your head!
10. This Will Pass!
The most important thing to keep in mind to help kick quarantine fatigue is the knowledge that this will pass!
Yes, it may take longer than any of us expected.
Yes, we will all need to deal with shelter-in-place, safer-at-home, and other tightly regulated guidelines for awhile.
But, this will pass and we will be able to return to normalcy at some point in our future. For now, we simply need to tackle this challenge head-on, use the resources at our disposal, and rely on each other (virtually that is!) to get through it.
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