June 29, 2020
How to cope with COVID-19 quarantine fatigue
BY Catherine Powers-James, Ph.D.
If you’ve been feeling even more stressed than usual lately, you’re not alone. Many of us are struggling with so-called quarantine fatigue.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has completely upended life as we know it, requiring us to stay home a lot and adopt new habits like wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces frequently. It’s changed the way we work, made it harder to plan ahead and kept us from many of the activities and social interactions we enjoy. And, with the number of confirmed cases continuing to rise, life is unlikely to get back to “normal” any time soon.
So, what can you do to cope with your quarantine fatigue? Here are seven tips.
1) Understand that your feelings are normal
It is absolutely normal to be frustrated with the current situation. A lot of people report feeling “over it” or “done” with the pandemic. They’ve been cooped up for months, they’re bored and financially stressed, and it seems like the coronavirus is destroying their lives.
If you’re one of those people, please understand that there’s nothing wrong with you. Everyone is struggling right now. And it is totally normal to feel that way. This is a natural reaction to an unnatural situation. But it’s important to acknowledge these feelings without giving yourself permission to act on them in unhealthy ways.
2) Reframe your thinking
It can help to validate how you’re feeling — even if only privately — and then try to look at it from a more positive point of view.
For example, you might think, “I am so sick of this! But I’m going to keep doing it, because I care about other people, I know it’s important, and it takes everyone doing their part to make a difference.”
Focusing on the “whys” might seem silly, but it really does matter. So, consider what your sacrifice is actually accomplishing, and the lives you might be saving, including those of cancer patients, who are very vulnerable to COVID-19.
3) Redirect your attention to what’s possible
When your social life is very limited, it’s natural to imagine all the fun activities you feel like you’re missing out on. But the coronavirus pandemic isn’t just affecting you — it’s affecting everyone, across the globe. No one’s life has been untouched.
To counteract feelings of restriction, try focusing on what is available to you, rather than what isn’t.
For instance, you might think, “Well, I can’t go to a movie theater just yet, but I can still have a movie night here with my family.” Or, “I can’t go jogging with all my running buddies at the park right now, but I can still take a walk in the neighborhood with my dog.”
Because you do have options. You just might need a slightly different perspective — and some flexibility — to recognize them.
4) Don’t underestimate the value of a simple routine
Routines have gone out the window for many of us, but a little routine is still good. It helps you feel more stable and life feel a little less unpredictable.
So, try to establish at least one simple routine each day, even if it’s just getting up and getting dressed every morning. It’s fine to stay in your pajamas once in a while, but if you suddenly realize your entire wardrobe consists of “daytime” pajamas and “nighttime” pajamas, it might be time to reconsider your choices.
Even a change of scenery can improve your mood, so commit to going for a drive or a walk once a week in a direction you’ve never headed before or exploring an unfamiliar neighborhood on your bike. Sometimes, just stepping outside to retrieve the mail each day can make you feel less confined.
5) Step up your self-care efforts
Humans are hard-wired to connect with each other, so we do not hibernate well. That’s why taking good care of ourselves is more important than ever. It starts with getting enough sleep, staying physically active and eating healthy foods. But it can also mean indulging yourself in small, meaningful ways.
That may be something as simple as taking a leisurely bubble bath with soft music playing and candles around the tub. Or, planting a vegetable garden or taking up cycling. Always wanted to learn how to knit or sew or cook or meditate? Take advantage of the many free lessons online.
New experiences — even those undertaken solo — can make time feel less like a burden and more like a gift. So think about the things you’ve only dreamed about doing until now and consider ways to make them a reality.
6) Know your red flags
Everyone has limits. So, recognize when you’re about to hit yours, and take whatever healthy steps are necessary to feel better. For some people, that might mean phoning a friend to vent. For others, it might mean taking a walk around the block to calm down. For those in recovery, it might mean calling a sponsor.
Whatever it is, don’t judge yourself for craving relief. Most of us are getting really tired of being isolated. And, there is nothing wrong with you for seeking support.
MD Anderson patients who want professional help can always request a referral to one of our psychiatrists or social work counselors. Many are now offering virtual office visits. Patients can also contact one of our chaplains for spiritual support, or join one of our virtual support groups.
If you or someone you know is in danger of hurting themselves, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255 immediately. Counselors are available seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and offer free and confidential support.
7) Remember that everything is temporary
As hard as things might be right now, it’s important to remember that nothing lasts forever. Everything is temporary. So, know that there’s an end in sight. And someday, we will get past this crisis — even if “normal” never looks quite the same way again.
Catherine Powers-James, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in our Integrative Medicine Center.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
TopicsCOVID-19 Mental Health
Focusing on the ‘whys’ might seem silly, but it really does matter.
Catherine Powers-James, Ph.D.