Lifestyle

Pandemic fatigue? You’re not alone. Here’s how to deal with it

To help readers cope with their anxieties in these stressful times, has launched Talk it Out, a series under which our panel of expert counsellors will answer your mental health queries. This week’s advice comes from clinical psychotherapist Radhika Bapat

I am 14 and I suffer from major anxiety. The virtual world is taking an even bigger toll on me. Negative news of Covid-19 is all around and this is only making me more tense and nervous by the day. I am in a state of constant fear. Please suggest ways to manage.

– Anonymous

Many of us are feeling the same way, so you are not alone. Some amount of anxiety helps us cope, even though it is an uncomfortable feeling. It drives us to adapt and to do everything within our control to protect ourselves. One way to manage anxiety if it becomes distressing is to write down things you can control in one column (and focus on these things), and things that you cannot control in another (and learn to let go of these things). Things that you can control are safety behaviours such as physical distancing, masking up and handwashing, as well as doom-scrolling, watching news or deleting social media. You can control looking after yourself, following a routine, hydrating, eating, stretching and getting sleep. What you cannot control is the future. It helps to speak to a counsellor to get the fears off your chest.

I am a 30-year-old woman. I am extremely stressed and burnt out due to the pandemic. It seems like it is endless and that there is no purpose or future left to look forward to. I am only focusing on survival which is very depressing. The news of people losing their lives around me is only making me more nervous and jittery. I am unable to break the negative cycle of thoughts. I am losing the motivation to do anything. Please help.

– Anonymous

Pandemic fatigue is a very real problem. A psychologist named Adam Grant recently wrote about how the feelings of stagnation, emptiness, joylessness, and aimlessness – which he called “languishing” was most likely the dominant emotion of last year. Psychologists suggest that one way of coping with this very real stressor is by taking only one day, one hour, one tiny goal at a time. It is important that this goal be doable, not very difficult and preferably enjoyable. Once this goal is achieved, it is also important to actively remind yourself that this is a “win”, albeit a small win. Different strategies work with different people. If you find yourself hitting a wall with burnout contact a mental health care professional.

I’m a 26-year-old single woman who has craved for love throughout my life. I never got it from my parents, who were almost always unavailable. My family abused me physically and verbally each time I made a mistake. I always felt inadequate and worthless. In college, I dated several guys but they dumped me. I couldn’t find any good friends and if I did, I couldn’t sustain them as my parents never entertained them. I faced a lot of setbacks in my career as well and now I have a stable job in a MNC. This lockdown made me realise that I can’t stay with my family anymore. I feel mentally exhausted. I feel the only way for me to get out of the family is to get married, but I am not prepared for it. What should I do?

– Anonymous

I’m sorry to read about your personal trauma and your abusive home environment. So often, stories of trauma also highlight resilience. Despite your setbacks, it is your courage, your endurance and determination that landed you your stable job. Kudos. It is important to reflect on past traumas, in order to acknowledge their importance to your present and your future. Sometimes it helps to meet with a process-oriented therapist with whom you can work and get insights into your own habits and patterns, which help you make wise decisions. The short-term choice to marry in order to escape your home environment is risky. Working through various solutions with a counsellor will help you get clarity and closure. The need to escape a situation quickly can make you desperate and impair your judgement. You want to avoid the classic situation of “out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

I am a 32-year-old man who lost his job two years ago. I have been in depression since then. I have not been able to find another job and the situation is only worsening. I am unmarried and am also facing weight issues and hair loss. We are running our family on my father’s pension. Walking, jogging, yoga makes me peaceful for some time but my fears crop up again. Please help me overcome my fears and live a happy and peaceful life.

– Anonymous

I’m sorry to hear about you losing your job and subsequent hardships. Even if the situation is temporary, people experience a loss of identity, anger, sadness and worry about the future. It is akin to grieving. Psychologists will encourage you to acknowledge your grief because it is similar to any other loss. It is important to maintain perspective and continue to seek out job resources. 2020-21 has seen millions coping with job loss. At the moment, all we can do is to focus on now and on today, to structure it well and to work through connecting with your sense of self-worth, by setting very small and achievable goals. The manner in which to do this is baby steps, but in the right direction. Give yourself credit where it is due. We cannot always control what happens, but what we can control is our responses. If your depression is affecting your sleep, eating habits, energy levels and motivation, consult a mental health practitioner.

I feel constantly anxious about the next thing that might happen in the coming future. I am a student with projects to submit. I work on them but I never feel good about what I have done. I feel trapped in a vicious cycle. I am not able to focus and work on it. I feel very anxious about the pandemic. I do not seem to be coming to terms with the present. I am constantly feeling down. I enjoy watching movies, but even if I start watching one, I do not finish it. I start feeling anxious in the middle. I am also unable to focus on those incomplete projects when I sit to work on them. I feel lost. How can I overcome this?

– Anonymous

Stress affects everybody in different ways. Please recognise that your anxiety is completely normal. Psychologists have written extensively about how this pandemic, with its school closures and headlines – is causing everybody to feel sombre and stuck. It has been particularly difficult to get work done, to get the kind of results that you got pre-pandemic and to study for the exams the way you did before. We encourage coping by using distractions, for the moment. Make sure to also focus on self-care. It is great that you are already connected with your feelings. If the anxiety is too much to take, and is affecting your mood and work constantly, connect with a mental health service.

5 tips to deal with pandemic burnout

· Acknowledge that the burnout is real. We are all in it, together. The whole world – we know how it feels because we feel it too

· Ask yourself what can I control and what can’t I control? Focus on the things that you can control

· Limit doom-scrolling on social media and your online time

· Focus on a tiny goal – an hour, a day at a time

· Small wins are more important that long-term goals


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