5 expert tips to help cope with pandemic fatigue

Feeling flat and grumpy lately? Covid-19 and lockdowns are taking their toll, but these steps can help boost your energy levels – and spirits – this spring. 

Feel like you’re dragging yourself through the days, with little joy or relief in sight?

You’re not alone, with a recent Harvard Business Review finding 85 per cent of people globally have experienced a decline in their overall wellbeing since the pandemic began.

Signs of pandemic fatigue

Macquarie University clinical psychologist and researcher Dr Jessamine Chen says prolonged periods of isolation and restricted movement can affect our thinking and physical energy levels.

Most of us have noticed that we have just not been feeling as motivated compared to pre-lockdown,” Dr Chen says.

“We’ve just become a little bit more forgetful than usual, we tend to get confused a little bit more easily and overall we’ve just been a little bit more cranky.”

Why is pandemic fatigue bad?

Australian College of Applied Psychology clinical psychologist and senior lecturer Dr James Collison says slowing down is a natural response to any kind of change.

“The problem is when that happens day after day, and days become weeks and weeks become months, we become rudderless and aimless,” Dr Collison says.

“Unfortunately our bodies are genetically and evolutionarily predisposed to respond to what we do, so if we stop moving and stop doing things, the body will stop burning glucose and we will get slower.

“It becomes a download spiral of inactivity and unhappiness.”

Tip 1: Accept the situation

To deal with the pandemic, Dr Collison says it almost pays to have a little bit of Stockholm syndrome, where you identify with your captors.

He suggests trying to shift your perspective, rather than trying to fight the situation.

“We don’t need to Google every minute of the day worrying about when we’re going to go back, and what’s going to happen,” Dr Collison says.

“Try and get on with your life as best you can.”

Tip 2: Reintroduce small activities

Dr Collison says reintroducing activities is a great way to build your confidence and re-engage with pleasure and enjoyment.

So if you’re missing your weekly sports training, for example, find another stimulating activity, such as learning an instrument, tidying the shed or starting a new hobby.

Tip 3: Structure the day

Dr Collison suggests establishing a realistic routine.

Try to aim for roughly four or five blocks in your day and punctuate them by meals (such as afternoon tea) because the food will give you energy,” he says.

“That way you’re never trying to do more than a few hours at a time.”

Tip 4: Introduce small “daily delights”

Dr Chen says introducing small novelties is another positive move.

“For example, I try to do a walk every day,” she says.

“I might change up a little bit by going a different route, or I might choose to have a different music playlist with me.”

She says little novelties can help your brain register information differently, improving wellbeing.

Tip 5:  Connect with your loved ones

You’re probably sick of Zoom, but Dr Chen says it’s important to keep making an effort to connect, even if it’s just a quick 10-minute chat.

“There are also other forms of communication that you can maintain your connection with your loved ones – whether that’s text messaging or writing a letter or sending a care package to your friends,” she says.

Written by Larissa Ham.