COVID-19 and pandemic fatigue

fatigue pandémique - Image par Free-Photos de Pixabay

A syndrome that appeared in November

It was the World Health Organization that sounded the alarm by publishing a document for governments entitled “Pandemic fatigue. Remotivating the population to prevent Covid-19”.

Anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, but also boredom, loneliness, loss of reference points, difficulty in projecting oneself into the future, so many physical and especially psychological problems that lead to fears of a relaxation of protective behaviors and social distancing.

It’s normal

Human beings have the capacity to get used to a situation, even a complicated, stressful one. It is one of our great qualities to be able to adapt and resist to difficult conditions. We have taken on new habits, from masks to hand washing to greeting from a distance. But we had to learn these habits quickly, and in a very anxiety-provoking and exceptional context.

This is the first aspect of this situation: it is unprecedented for many countries and many people.

Pandemics are not new, and they have already killed many people. But like the war, our generations have never experienced this before. And that is good. But it is also, logically, a shock. We are used to a certain comfort, we have habits of life. And we need our habits, it is what allows us to keep a certain serenity. Our reptilian brain pushes us to have a certain regularity in our life.

Moreover, when a difficult situation is prolonged, two parallel phenomena are created.

Adaptation and wear and tear

The first is, we get used to danger. While at the beginning of the pandemic, it was difficult not to feel anguish and fear in the face of one of the fundamental fears of human beings – death – today many people prefer to “live” and take the risk of contamination rather than continue to follow health rules that deprive us of encounters, physical contacts, discoveries and leisure activities.

The other phenomenon is the wear and tear of anxiety. The fact that we have to think about COVID all the time, even in our homes, makes us tired and demotivated. An additional weariness that settles in on top of the one we could already experience on a daily basis, before the pandemic. Anxiety, insomnia, difficulties to concentrate, to organize our life, to project ourselves… When we were already under stress at work, in our emotional life, or difficulties to find our way, to build a professional project, the dose can be too strong for some.

First of all, there was the shock, the psychological uneasiness born at the beginning of the pandemic. The fear of illness and death, for oneself and for one’s loved ones. But also the loss of reference points, when you have to reorganize your business, your professional activity, start working from home while also managing your children’s classes – a lot of new things to manage without any prior training, without any help.

There are those who have lost their jobs, and therefore cannot practice their art, whatever it may be. And with unemployment, the loss of income, even if alternative measures have been put in place. It’s more bearable when it’s short term. But when it is prolonged, and inaddition to the fear of illness, there is also the fear of lack of money, it is an enormous stress that accumulates. The fear of the consequences of the pandemic now surpasses the fear of the risks of the disease itself.

In addition, there are fewer and fewer opportunities to escape, to have fun. The pandemic reminds us from morning to night, creating a continuous tension. Distractions are reduced: in France and in many countries, no more theater or concerts, no more zumba or percussion classes to let off steam. Of course, there are still online concerts, movies and series, on dedicated platforms. But we discover how much we miss the “live” and the social exchanges around these activities.

It is especially young people who suffer from this lack of social life, in addition to financial problems, and the lack of perspective for their professional and personal future.

The older ones suffer especially from the lack of contact with others. Children, on the other hand, are more stressed, more combative, and lack concentration – it is difficult, when an anxiety-provoking situation lasts, not to transmit stress.

How to fight pandemic fatigue

The first thing you can do to fight against this fatigue is to identify it. The simple “I’m tired of this situation” can allow us to recognize our fatigue, to accept it, but also to take the problem seriously, for ourselves and for those around us. In order to put in place tools, practices, tips to fight against it.

What exactly are we tired of? Wearing a mask? The lack of social interaction? The lack of shows, restaurants?

By identifying what weighs us down the most, we can then think about the alternatives that may be available to us. We can no longer, for the time being, meet 10 people at a restaurant for a nice dinner with friends. But we can have lunch at each other’s houses, in pairs. It might be the right time, then, todeepen friendly or lovingrelationships, to focus on listening and discovering each other more deeply.

The “for now” is also important. One of the difficulties in fighting a difficult situation that lasts over time is the lack of possibility to project oneself. However, since the development of vaccines and the better knowledge of the transmission of the virus and the disease, we already have more means to fight against the pandemic.

This is a light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve already lasted a year. Many studies suggest that it will probably take us less time to get through this. So we’re certainly halfway there already. If you take the time to understand, to remember that all of these health measures are primarily about saving lives, you have to look at it as a marathon. It stings during the race, but when you cross the finish line, you are proud of having accomplished something you thought you couldn’t.

The good side

Not everyone suffers from this pandemic fatigue. Some people appreciate telecommuting, the time saved. No longer having to endure public transport or traffic jams, open spaces, colleagues.

Others took advantage of it to spend more time with their children, to better understand who they were, their dreams, what they were learning at school. Others say they had time to reflect on what really mattered to them in life – the prospect of death awakens fundamental reflections that sometimes come at the right time. Perhaps you too have seen some positive aspects to this crisis…

Taking care of yourself

A pandemic is also an opportunity to reflect on your lifestyle and health.

When you’ve been locked up for weeks and months, you realize that nature andoutdoor exercise are fundamental to your physical and mental health.

That with the closing of restaurants, we may have the opportunity to rethink our diet, to eat more healthy, to take the time to shop differently, to learn to cook.

That the quality of our sleep is important. Because to face an illness, we don’t only have masks and hydroalcoholic gel, we also have our immune defenses. If you suffer from anxiety and your sleep suffers, do some sports (walking every day, outdoors, even if it’s cold, it’s important) and don’t hesitate to take supplements to help you sleep better.

And unplug, meditate: there are a plethora of apps, videos and podcasts with guided meditations today. Depending on your preference, go to bed with quiet music, birdsong, the sound of rain or a crackling wood fire. Take a bath, a hot shower… Put everything in place to disconnect. If you need to keep up with the news, prefer the morning to read, watch or listen: the rest of the day, you live!

Tell yourself that there are more serious problems

The fear of the consequences of the pandemic now surpasses the fear of the risks of the disease itself. However, if you think about it, it may be easier to recover from a one-time economic problem than from an illness, if you develop it in its serious form, or from the loss of a loved one. Money wound is not fatal… In other countries, the situation is terrible. It is human: we console ourselves by comparing ourselves to others, when we see that the misfortunes are greater.

We can also take a step back, and say to ourselves that we are still alive (which is cool, because others have died), and thatwe are capable of facing, of surviving in any case, something quite enormous, quite disruptive too. And when we know what changes – climatic, social, economic – await us in the future, we can also say to ourselves that it is a training for adaptation and resilience.

Our emotions are only emotions

We must remember that we have power over our emotions. It is perfectly normal and logical to have so many negative emotions, because we are reacting at the same time to many stressors and exhaustion, weariness and rejection.

But these emotions are created by us. So we have the power to talk to them, to analyze them, to take over. For example, when we are afraid for our future, we can work on telling ourselves that we don’t know the future. In the same way that we did not see this crisis coming, we did not expect its positive consequences: the return to local markets, more time spent with our loved ones, telecommuting which has freed some people from tiring journeys. New relationships with neighbors and local merchants.

A beneficial reconsideration of one’s work, one’s lifestyle, one’s choice of housing.

Small pleasures

To fight against negative emotions, we must focus on what we can still do, what we can control, rather than what we cannot do. Think about the present and all the pleasant things you can do and experience during your day. Fresh croissants at breakfast. Playing with the kids, the cat or the dog. Walks and picnics in nature, video games alone or board games with the family. Books that maybe we didn’t have time to read anymore. A good raclette and a good wood fire. Listening to a concert, playing a musical instrument, crafts, gardening, sports…

Writing also helps, a lot, to enter into a flow, to detach oneself from problems, emotions and ruminations. Start by listing everything you can do, right now, everything that is still possible.


Be creative and think about what you can change in your daily life if you find it monotonous, if you feel bored.

For example, vary the stores where you go shopping, and change the way you get there. Order online, from one store to another, from one restaurant to another. Decorate and rearrange your home, change your haircut or color, your wardrobe. In short, introduce something new to break the feeling of saturation.

Make projections – and plans

Finally, think about the future.

Make a list of what you’re missing, and start planning, without necessarily setting a date. Next year? That trip to the Balearics, that weekend in Stockholm. The concerts of this group, the shows, the restaurants you want to discover. The activities you miss and the ones you’ve always wanted to do.

A projection exercise that can also allow us to rethink our life, but also what we do with our society. Our consumption, our relationship to distractions, our relationships with others. How the world works, and what we could decide to change.

And what we could do, concretely, to take action: join an association, create a neighborhood group, a collective garden, set up an educational or sports project for example. Look for what exists, join groups on social networks, start to exchange, to imagine your world after. And even your world of now: if you have ideas to improve everyday life, share them!

Making projects is also what makes you feel how lucky you are, in the absolute sense. To have friends, loved ones, even if we miss them. But also the freedom to go out and move around, the means to afford outings, trips and leisure activities. All of this, even – especially – if we have been deprived of it for a few months, we will savor it even more when we have finally defeated this pandemic.

And we will beat it, as we have beaten all the others.


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Sophie Barbarella

Writer and Public Speaker

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