Home Lifestyle Pandemic Fatigue? I feel you.

Pandemic Fatigue? I feel you.

by Roberta

When I last wrote about the effects of the pandemic (we had just been forced to cut our honeymoon short, quarantine and, well, the rest was history), we had been feeling the effects for a week or so. In essence, nothing really. Nine months down the line and the tune we’re all singing may have somewhat changed. I know mine did.


A new reality sets in.

Yes, the measures relaxed and yes, we can go out, meet friends and family – whether you decide to actually do that or not, you’ll agree it’s a far cry from the months under lockdown we spent between March and June. I remember those few months, where I was furiously finishing a novel I was writing like I’d never have time for it later. I was working out and feeling really good about it. When lockdown lifted, I ran the longest runs I ever had. It felt empowering, all of it. The strength, the creativity, the flexibility of working remote and managing a small household with a lot more ease than before. And then, something started happening to me, a couple of months or so ago. It crept up really slowly, and I dismissed the feelings as temporary. Until I spoke up about it with a dear friend at work and realised it wasn’t just happening to me.

The changes we’re undergoing are, to put it mildly, quite significant. The presence of the virus is still very present. The fear that you or a loved one might contract it, hangs like an axe over our heads. All this will leave some effect in the short, or long term. But until you’re aware of what you’re feeling, or why you might be feeling it, you might, like me, dismiss it as something irrelevant. It might not be. 

It started with feeling demotivated about the simplest things which used to bring me joy. Like opening letters and reading them. Like going out for a run. Like putting down in writing an idea I had just before I went to sleep. Like simply going into the room I’ve lovingly converted into a study so I can have a focus zone to work. Like messaging a friend I haven’t seen in a while, or reading the message she sent me. I didn’t feel like doing much, except for reading, watching TV (which I never binged on before) and sleeping. After a while, the smallest inconveniences would make me cry, for absolutely no reason at all. Things I would have scoffed at before because they were nonsense. Suddenly, remote work stopped being so empowering and flexible – it was a curse. I wanted to go to the office. To meet people, to be around people. I realised that I was spending a good nine or ten hours a day alone at home, and if there was anything that my experience with Emirates taught me, was that I hate being alone for long stretches of time, or unless I purposefully want to be alone. I love people. I love being around them, talking to them, listening to them. I was lonely and I was, I realised, burned out from something I did not even know was affecting me. So I opened up, and talked about it.


Overcoming Pandemic Fatigue

I won’t lie. I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I feel secure and happy with the place I occupy. I still get very emotional very quickly, and it still takes me some effort to pick up what I’ve been wanting to do and which I know I’ll feel good about after. But I guess, knowing I’m not alone in feeling this way helped. Here’s what I’ve tried to do to keep my head afloat, with suggestions from friends and family, and which I hope might help you too;

1.       Try a change of scenery. If you can, try to go someplace new as often as you can. Whether it’s a walk on a new route, or a weekend stay in Gozo (where I am right now and which I swear has done me a world of good), changing location can help you shift perspective and get out of a routine that was bogging you down.

2.       Making long term plans is pretty useless right now, something which, as a manic planner, really threw me off. So go for short term plans. I started making meal plans on Sunday to help with daily indecisions that added to the constant feeling of being lost and demotivated. Plan your workouts/walks/runs in advance. Waking up knowing you have it on your agenda will help you mentally prepare for it. Some people prefer spontaneity but in my case, if I did not have it planned, then it was not happening.

3.       At the same time though, don’t overwhelm yourself with plans. You don’t want to end up feeling guilty for not having done half of the things you planned to do. Take it easy.

4.       Try something new. I know we’ve been hearing the same thing since the beginning of the year, and that maybe you feel like you haven’t achieved something vital for not having created anything during lockdown. That’s not what I mean. I mean learn something new. Try free online courses you can just stop if they’re not what you had hoped. Read up on that process you’ve been dying to try but don’t quite feel like trying out yet. Sometimes reading is enough to inspire you to do. If it doesn’t, that’s ok. You’d still have learnt something new.

5.       Share. If you’ve come across something you really enjoyed, share it, put it out there so that other people might benefit from it too. The gratifying rush you get from making other people happy is really something.

6.       Stop whatever is not working for you. Home workouts make you dread the whole day? Finishing that course you signed up for is leeching your soul? Facing that text message, or feeling like you have to answer back is making you feel miserable? I think you deserve to pause. Put it away. Go back to it later, if you feel up to it. If there’s anything this year taught us, is that good things tend to happen when you slow down. So hit pause, or change tactics. Don’t careen straight into a wall.

7.       Talk, talk, talk! Truly. Talk about whatever you’re feeling. For one thing, people will understand why you might be behaving a bit differently, and they might have tips on what worked for them too.


Do what works for you.

Ultimately, you know yourself best, and know what would work or wouldn’t for you.

For my part, getting fresh air and a change in scenery has done wonders. I’m getting excited about starting a calligraphy course that I’ve been putting on hold for a while, and I’m looking at getting my dad’s old film camera up and running again. I’m looking up stores that sell 35mm films in Malta, and how to personally develop and enlarge photos. That last part will come later, but I’m really excited to start taking photos with a film camera again. I’m writing short stories that fuel my inspiration, without being the commitment that a novel is. I’m going for walks, not runs, because that’s what I feel like doing right now. And my mother is spending a day with me next week while Carl is out working, so she can keep me company. I read and reread all the lovely letters from the postcard initiative I started a couple of months ago, picking the time that felt right for it. It will take longer for my friends to receive a letter back but that’s the beauty of this exchange. Time is a luxury we actually have.

Pandemic fatigue is not something I came up with at all. It’s a recorded phenomenon, shared by many who have seen a lot more hardship and sadness than I had to endure. But the purpose is not to compare grievances. This, what we’re going through, is not over yet, and despite a vaccine that looms on an ever-encroaching horizon like a hero with cape and hand on hips,  we need to let each other know that we’re going through challenging times. That we all react differently, that throwing a lifeline, with words, kind messages, or just lending an ear, can be of incredible help. Now and always. 

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