9 Tips for Combating Pandemic Fatigue and Anxiety

Reframe your mindset, engage in new activities, and focus on your circle of control.

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With everything that has transpired this year, the pandemic fatigue has definitely set in.

It has been a tumultuous year, with significant changes to our lifestyles.

Burnout, exhaustion, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed–these are all common current themes. 

To further complicate matters, the past few weeks/months, anxiety levels pertaining to the election were noticeably on the rise.

Tips for Overcoming Pandemic Fatigue and Anxiety: 

1. Take breaks from news and social media.

  • It is challenging to engage in a media detox in the midst of the current events of 2020, but detaching and engaging in enjoyable alternate activities serves as a needed mental break. 
    • Set a personal time limit per day for media/social media consumption, and stick to it. Avoid the swiping and “doomscrolling”. 

2. Reframe your mindset.

  • I find that I’m unable to partake in some events that I normally enjoy (travelling, weddings, etc). But it has given me the opportunity to discover or rediscover new activities and forgotten hobbies.
    • Cultivate creativity. Use the right side of your brain. As a physician, I often feel the left side of my brain is used disproportionately. The pandemic has given me an opportunity to feed my neglected right side.  
      • Write, create, play music, paint, learn a new skill. One of the silver linings of our present situation is the expedient development of virtual technologies and platforms. As a result, there are a plethora of online courses and programs available to nurture our creativities and personal development. Peruse local college and online catalogs.

3. Seek out absorbing (flow-creating) activities (non-media related).

  • According to a 2018 article in the American Psychological Association, “Flow is a state in which one becomes so engaged in a particular activity that the rest of the world falls away and time passes without one noticing; the experience is so intrinsically rewarding that the person partakes in the activity for the pure enjoyment of it— even at great personal cost (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).” 
    • According to this study/analysis, even after controlling for individual disposition, subjective experiences of “flow” predicted more positive emotions and less negative emotions and worry during a period of uncertainty/waiting period. 
  • For me, reading, playing the piano, art all create flow.
  • What creates flow for you?

4. Focus on your circle of control. 

  • Oftentimes we can put forth our best efforts, and then ultimately still worry about the outcome (this could pertain to professional life, personal life, politics, etc). 
  • Do not worry about what is beyond your personal circle of control. You cannot control other people’s emotions, reactions, or behavior. 
  • Maintain a positive mindset and work on personal resilience.

5. Exercise.

  • Exercise releases endorphins, which naturally elevate mood. In addition, exercise also decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves sleep quality and ability to fall asleep
  • Gyms may still be closed in your area, or you may not feel comfortable using shared equipment. In this case, there are a variety of programs available online.
  • If you are a social exerciser and enjoyed in person group classes: look online, many of these classes have gone virtual, and many are even free or offered at minimal cost.

6. Meditate, explore yoga, engage in mindfulness.

  • Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Clear your mind, and develop a daily meditation/mindfulness practice.  
  • The practice of yoga has also been shown to have similar benefits. One meta-analysis showed that yoga can lead to better regulation of the sympathetic nervous system, and decreased feelings of depression and anxiety.

7. Connect with family and friends (virtually if possible).

  • There is literature to support that having a positive social support system has protective effects on both physical and mental health. Furthermore, strong social support may be linked to higher levels of resilience.
    • Choose to connect via phone, zoom, houseparty, etc. if possible. Physically distant, but emotionally close. If in person gatherings are a must, wear a mask and socially distance, and protect high risk individuals.

8. Optimize your environment.

  • If your environment is cluttered, disorganized, and stressful, this may impact your mood. Cleaning and organizing can be therapeutic. 
    • Aromatherapy, essential oils, or soothing music can be calming for some. 

9. Journal

  • There is something cathartic about relieving stresses on paper. Moreover, later in life, you will have a log of events and emotions to reflect back upon.

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