As we reach almost one year of dealing with the COVID-19 virus worldwide, many people are beginning to experience pandemic fatigue. But the results of such fatigue can be devastating.
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly reshaped this past year for people all around the world. It has wreaked havoc in governments, households, stock markets, small businesses and even relationships. Not much of regular life looks the same as it did a year ago. Now that an entire year has almost passed, many people are reaching a point of frustration with having to alter so much of their lives. Experts are calling this “pandemic fatigue”. According to WDG Public Health, “‘Pandemic fatigue’ can occur when people get tired of the pandemic measures and become less likely to follow public health practices or simply begin to drown out those messages. A natural sense of burnout can happen since we’ve had to stick to these public health measures for such a prolonged period of time. Pandemic fatigue can be experienced differently for everyone but often presents itself as feeling restless, irritable, lacking motivation, and difficulty concentrating on tasks”. The effects of pandemic fatigue can vary in severity based on many factors-age, marital/relationship status, socioeconomic status, race and gender. Some research has shown youth and young adults suffering the most, as they are still establishing themselves and their relationships. Without the ability to socialize in person and enjoy being in public, many are growing weary and lonely. With the lower risk of complications or death, many youth also find it hard to continue staying apart and are not continuing to maintain the social distancing/stay at home suggestions from many health officials.
This level of fatigue and the symptoms it causes can have many health implications. First and foremost, the lack of motivation is extremely detrimental to those trying to lose weight or get healthy. It is hard enough to maintain a long term intrinsic/internal drive to workout or stay moving in a work out program, let alone during a year-long global pandemic. Many Americans who lost their motivation a few months into 2020 have found it hard to get back on track with their fitness activities. Another health side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting pandemic fatigue is stress and restlessness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes lead to the following:
- Fear and worry about personal health, loved ones, job loss, finances, etc
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty concentrating
- Worsening of previous chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased substance abuse (drugs, tobacco, alcohol, etc)
The longer that the world is dealing with this pandemic, the more fatigue and related symptoms will increase. Another concern health officials have with pandemic fatigue is that the general population will begin to relax on following health guidelines, and many areas around the world are already seeing this trend. With the holidays on the horizon, many family and social gatherings could lead to a large spike worldwide. The holidays are usually considered a happy time, where friends and families gather together, share meals and spend much of their time indoors. During a global pandemic, these behaviors are highly discouraged due to the increased risk of gathering together with many people. Due to pandemic fatigue, many Americans are choosing to continue their holiday rituals and traveling to be together. Many airlines report strong bookings over the holidays despite the encouragement to stay home. With families choosing to fly, some gathering from many different parts of the country, health officials are all very nervous there will be spikes all over the country.
If you are feeling any of these symptoms, rest assured you are not alone. Many, if not all, have identified with one or more of the pandemic fatigue symptoms at some point through the year. It is important-for your health and those around you-to continue following safety measures. Wearing masks in public, staying home whenever possible, minimizing parties and social gatherings and extra hand washing will all help in the fight against COVID-19. Hopefully we will see an end in sight, but in the meantime we will get through it. People are resilient and strong in nature and with a little patience can conquer any mountain, no matter how big.