What is lockdown fatigue?
The Australian Psychological Society has described lockdown fatigue as a state of exhaustion caused by the long-term effects of COVID-19. It is a state experienced over a prolonged period of time when people have had to come to terms with a virus that has affected every aspect of their life, including their freedom.
In a very short time-frame, we have become restricted in what we can do and our daily routines and habits have been disrupted. In addition to this, we have the added stress of the COVID-19 outbreak and many of us have the additional burden of having our jobs put at risk. Some of us may be finding it hard to navigate these uncertain waters. When there’s uncertainty for this long we can feel fatigued from managing it all. Managing the change, our emotions, our physical health, and our social wellbeing can be challenging.
Here are some ways that we can manage or overcome lockdown fatigue:
1. Acknowledge & accept
Acknowledge your feelings and reactions and try not to be too critical of yourself.
Accept that you may be more tired, or not as productive or motivated as usual or that you may have a shorter fuse and be more irritable.
Recognise and accept that although you want things to return to normal, that it is only possible when it is safe.
2. The importance of structure
To gain structure we need to plan ahead.
We need to think about how our days are structured, try and maintain a routine, and look at ways to fit in exercise and sleep into our daily planning.
Structure means we plan our days or weeks and set a routine. This means we get up at the same time, ‘go to work’, plan lesson times, take regular work breaks, plan family time, keep in contact with friends and relatives, exercise and sleep.
3. Exercise & stay active
Studies have highlighted that all healthy adults aged 18 – 65 should participate in either:
Moderate intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes five days per week.
Vigorous intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes three days per week.
Or at least try to move more and sit less in an effort to stay active!
Staying active improves immune system function, aiding our recovery in the case we become ill.
As we all know, exercise is good for you, and it’s even better if done outdoors! Being outdoors will boost your serotonin levels. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helps keep you calm and focused.
Being outdoors also lets us take in more sunlight which has other amazing properties – it provides a source of vitamin D, lowers high blood pressure and even improves brain function. Research has shown that vitamin D plays an important role in regulating our moods and warding off depression.
To top things off on why sunlight is important, melatonin from outdoor light helps our body know if it’s light or dark which helps our sleep.
4. Communication & connection
Humans, in general, are social beings. Unfortunately due to the lockdown, we’ve been forced to become asocial, at least in physical terms.
You see, human brains have evolved over the years for socialisation, and in a variety of different ways. Meaning that social creatures like us, need plenty of interactive stimulation to keep our brains in good order. Therefore, a lockdown can be a pretty big ask, which can result in a number of potential consequences such as stress and anxiety.
A positive side of the pandemic happening in 2020 is that our society has developed various ways for us to keep in touch with friends and family remotely, via technology.
Therefore, make the most of technology to speak or to ‘see’ the important people in your life on a regular basis. Make the most of opportunities to try to communicate, by scheduling a FaceTime or WhatsApp call with your family, or even a Zoom movie night with the girls!
You can even kick it old school and chat in the lift or over the fence with your neighbour, or speaking to a passer-by as you tend to your garden, or your delivery guy.
5. Sleep well
Nothing beats a good night’s sleep. After all, sleep is vital for our general wellbeing!
A good night’s sleep can range from 7 to 9 hours and getting one involves a bit of planning! Remember, where you sleep is important and it should be associated with sleeping alone. Try to make it a habit to wind down at a certain time just before your bedtime, which reiterates my point about the importance of structure.
It is crucial to make the environment calm, relaxing and conducive for sleeping. Remove any light (this includes TVs, smartphones, monitors or anything else that emits light) and sound, and make sure the room temperature is lower than the rest of your home.
If you like to read before going to sleep, you should consider using a physical book, rather than using an electronic device, as the LED light stimulates the waking brain.
If you’re a caffeine lover, cut down your caffeine especially when it’s closer to bedtime. Caffeine as well as alcohol and sugary foods, will impact our sleep. Too much caffeine can cause us to be anxious and depressed. Which is why coffee should be avoided at least 2 hours before bedtime.
There are other ways to wind down to sleep as well. A warm bath is a good way of relaxing yourself before bed, so too is meditation. Or perhaps light some candles or set up an aroma diffuser, as an unwinding process to get you in the mood for sleep.
Added tip – You should consider how your mattress and pillows support you when you sleep. If they don’t, perhaps it’s time to make a change!
6. Eat sensibly & stay hydrated
Food and mood go hand in hand.
There are a few ways to get you thinking of how your food affects your moods.
If you don’t eat regularly, your blood sugar drops which may cause you to feel tired, irritable and depressed.
Eating regularly and choosing foods that release energy slowly will help to keep your sugar levels steady.
Be sure to incorporate enough fats into your diet
Your brain needs fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6 to keep it working well. So rather than avoiding all fats, eat the right ones.
If you don’t drink enough fluids especially water, you might find it difficult to concentrate or think clearly. You may even start to feel a bit constipated, which puts no one in a good mood!
Pay attention to your gut
Your gut and your brain use similar chemicals. Therefore, keeping your gut healthy can keep your brain healthy too. Sometimes, your gut can reflect how you are feeling emotionally. If you’re stressed or anxious this can make your gut slow down or speed up.