September 23, 2020

Managing COVID-19 fatigue is crucial to our health and well-being during the pandemic

Madison, Wis. — Compounded stress and exhaustion from worrying about the coronavirus is leading to "COVID-19 Fatigue," a shorthand way of talking about an overall sense of exhaustion based on the combination of challenges people are facing during the pandemic.

As a result, health care providers are seeing an increase in people who are feeling defeated, burned out and engaging in risky behaviors that can increase the spread of the coronavirus. Patients are also reporting higher levels of depression, anxiety and alcohol and drug dependency as the pandemic persists. As a result, the next challenge is to flatten the mental health curve.

UW Health psychologist Shilagh Mirgain says that once a person recognizes that they are experiencing the symptoms of COVID Fatigue there are number of helpful tips and behavioral changes that they can do to benefit their mental health by better managing the uncertainty of these times. The following are the four main areas of COVID-19 Fatigue and some coping mechanisms for each one:

Change fatigue and uncertainty burnout

  • Radical acceptance that life will continue to be difficult for a while.

  • Find the silver lining.

  • Look for activities new and old that continue to fulfill you.

Depleted surge capacity

  • "Take 5" mindfulness practice to recharge.

  • Expect less from yourself - cut yourself some slack and give yourself some grace.

Zoom burnout

  • 20-20-20 rule (For every 20 minutes you are looking at a screen, look away from the screen and focus on a spot 20 feet away for 20 seconds).

  • Consider getting blue light-blocking glasses.

  • Use transitions well (getting up and walking for 2 minutes every hour can help reverse the negative health effects from prolonged sitting. Also consider other formats for meetings, such as a telephone call or shorter meeting where you do some of the work by e-mail).

  • Choose to move: Make physical activity a priority.

'Doom scrolling'

(Staying glued to electronic devices to find out information on the disasters and stressors that face our country)

  • Limit how much social media you are exposed to.

  • Be mindful of the type of news you are consuming.