Let’s agree that the year 2020 hasn’t been the best. What we thought was a few weeks of temporary inconvenience about COVID-19 last March has turned into a marathon with no end in sight. I thought I was doing okay, but then I lost it when there were no tater tots at the grocery store. That was when I realized COVID fatigue had set in.
When I realized COVID fatigue had set in
On Wednesday nights, we host our family for dinner. My spouse and I go an extra mile cooking on Wednesdays for those we love. What could be better for the first cold autumn Wednesday dinner than Tater Tot casserole?
So I got up early and, with care, went to the grocery store with my list. The main reason for going, though, was to get a package of frozen Tater Tots. After all, how can you make Tater Tot casserole without them?
I stared at the space in the frozen foods section where Tater Tots should be. There was a space between frozen mashed potatoes in the shape of happy faces and frozen store brand potato puffs. What the?!? THERE WERE NO FREAKING TATER TOTS! I lost all perspective for a bit.
What is COVID fatigue?
Research in the field of positive psychology suggests that many of us are feeling COVID-19 behavior fatigue. Our fears, uncertainty, and disruptions to our everyday routines can make us feel overwhelmed. It may explain why people are talking with us about how they have gained weight in 2020, are overspending online, feeling isolated, turning into a couch potato, or staring at empty spaces where the Tater Tots are supposed to be the store.
5 Science-Based Strategies for Coping with COVID fatigue
Yale University’s Dr. Laurie Santos offers five positive coping strategies for people that are recognizing COVID fatigue.
Exercise can bump up your physical wellbeing as well as helping you cope. One study suggests that 30 minutes of activity in the morning is, in some cases, as useful as taking the prescription medication Zoloft, a prescription used to treat depression, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Move it.
Focus on gratitude.
Notice the better parts of your life. Listing 3-5 things every day that you are grateful for is life-changing. Family mealtime can be a great time to go around the table, sharing three good things from each person’s day. Keep a spiral notebook and pen handy to capture ideas. Reviewing your list of things you are grateful for as you fall asleep is a great habit.
Many of us are sleep deprived, and it impacts our outlook on life. An hour before bedtime, put your electronics away, and detach from any screens. If the news upsets you, pull back from anxiety-provoking reports, especially just before bedtime. Go to bed about the same time seven days a week and strive for at least eight hours of sleep.
Connect with people.
Many of us are missing friends and family we haven’t seen for months. Don’t wait for them to call or email. Seek them out electronically. While we may need to forgo face to face gatherings over the holidays, we can connect electronically, and we must do just that.
Dare to feel.
Suppressing your emotions is not healthy. Recognize and then accept your feelings of COVID fatigue. Ask yourself why.
Knowledge is Good; Positive Actions are Better
In my case, I asked myself why the lack of Tater Tots at the grocery store wasn’t something I could easily take in stride. It wasn’t the Tater Tots; it was my heart missing our son. He is in the healthcare field and doesn’t come to Wednesday evening dinners right now to protect our health. Once I realized that I went from missing him to gratitude for a son that cares so much about our health that he keeps his distance. Then I texted him to see how his day was going.
I reflected on whether I was connecting with people enough. My neighbors and I have weekly face-to-face driveway parties when weather permits. My friends and I touch each Friday via Zoom for about six hours as we chat and work on hobbies. When we started connecting on Fridays last March, we certainly didn’t realize it would be something we would continue for months or how important it would become to our small group to stay connected. We have most of our family in for Wednesday dinner. Facebook, email, and texts keep me connect with friends and family, too.
How about adequate, regular sleep? That’s when the red flag went up, and the root of my meltdown was identified. My sleeping habits have varied dramatically from usual. In the last week, bedtime ranged from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., and yet I was still getting up at 7 a.m. each day. Becoming aware of the consequences of irregular and inadequate sleep was enough to motivate more positive behaviors.
Give Yourself Gifts This Season
This season when we express our thankfulness and give gifts, give yourself the skills that don’t have to cost a thing. Give yourself the advantages of exercise, gratitude, enough sleep, connections with others, and feeling comfortable with your emotions and COVID fatigue.
We will get beyond this, even though it is trying our patience.
About Dr. Thia
Dr. Crawford is MPower Co’s Director of Education. She holds advanced degrees in consumer economics and adult education. Thia continues to model life-long education, recently finishing graduate work focused on positive psychology. She authored and taught MPower Co’s positive psychology course along with our financial course Richer Retirement.
More Positive Psychology Information
If you are looking for more information on positive psychology-related topics like COVID fatigue, read this article about interrupting anxiety with gratitude. Or follow MPower Co on Facebook, as we often share positive psychology-related topics or other posts like this one.