The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

PANDEMIC EXHAUSTION: HERE’S WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

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Hitting the COVID-19 wall hurt back in the late summer and early fall, but we were able to keep on keepin’ on because we still believed that things would eventually get back to normal.

So much has changed since then. More than half a million people have died in the United States.

There are now COVID-19 variants. And even now, as thousands of people are vaccinated each day, masks are still a part of our foreseeabl­e future. Schools are reopening, but for how long?

We are still operating in hyperarous­al mode, said Lynette Luckers, interim department head of counseling at Community College of Philadelph­ia.

“Most of us are in some state of exhaustion or fatigue,” said Shawn Blue, a clinical psychologi­st and assistant professor at Jefferson University Hospital. “We feel stuck. We are pooped, and no amount of sleep can help.”

The tricky part is that we are dealing with different kinds of exhaustion. Here are tips to help us to push through:

1. Mental fatigue

What it is: No matter how much you try to concentrat­e, your brain jumps from idea to idea. And frankly, you find it hard to sit still for long periods of time. You have a lot of projects on tap, lots of ideas simmering, but little to no motivation to get anything done.

What you can do about it: Try to stick to a schedule. But give yourself a lot of breaks. Sitting at your computer for hours on end doesn’t allow your brain to unwind, said Jaime Zuckerman, an Ardmorebas­ed clinical psychologi­st. Now that the weather is breaking, go outside and take a walk. Start a garden. “Walking activates the positive chemicals in our brain. And when you return back to your task, you will feel better. The fog will be lifted, and you will be better able to focus.”

2. Emotional fatigue

What it is: You are tired of worrying all of the time. Will you get this vaccine? How long will you keep your job? The worst case-scenarios roll around freely in your brain. As a result, you just don’t want to do anything. You feel stuck. Some days it’s hard to get out of bed. If only you felt better.

What you can do about it: Stop waiting to feel better. In other words: Get comfortabl­e with being uncomforta­ble .“Do what you need to do,” Zuckerman said. “If you wait to feel better, you will never get anything done. ”If a task seems too big, take small steps. Checking things off your list will give you a sense of accomplish­ment, alleviate the anxiety and allow you to rest better in your off hours.

3. Social fatigue

What it is: On one hand, you miss seeing your friends in person. On the other, you are tired of seeing them on social media, but you can’t seem to put the phone down. How else can you stay in touch?

What you can do about it: “Stop relying on technology to maintain friendship­s and make plans to meet friends,” Blue said. Make sure you follow the social-distancing guidelines. But, Blue said, it’s also important you make sure you manage your expectatio­ns. “Enjoy the weather. Enjoy your friends, but don’t overdo it; it’s important that we don’t do too much too fast so we don’t undo the progress.”

4. Zoom fatigue

What it is: You are completely and totally talked out. The back-toback meetings have left your brain scrambled. You spend more of your days meeting than working.

What you can do about it: This fatigue comes from sensory overload, said Cynthia Watson, CEO of the Canadian-based virtual consulting company Virtira. “We asked 1,700 people about Zoom and found that 49% are exhausted by the camera,” Watson said.“It’s always on, so we have to feel like we are always on,” Watson said. The best advice: When creating your calendar, pick a block of time that is Zoom-call-free. “There are some meetings that you don’t have to attend,” Watson said. “There are others you can turn the camera off. Be mindful of your time and attend meetings accordingl­y.”

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