Seven Ways to Ease Pandemic Fatigue
March 2020. The world went still, quiet. People were afraid. The pandemic tore through our society altering how we communicate, work, and play. It altered every aspect of our lives. One year later we have not witnessed the return to normal. Here in Toronto, we are just barely out of lockdown, with most everything remaining closed. It has been 16 weeks and counting that we have endured continuous restrictions and closures. It is hard not to feel defeated, frustrated, emotional, and fatigued. It is the fatigue that is hitting our society the hardest. We are mentally and emotionally exhausted. I am witnessing pandemic fatigue all around me, and yes, it is affecting me as well.
How do we alleviate these feelings of angst? How do we release the stress? How do we combat the fatigue? I have contemplated this of late as I witness my son hitting that wall, and I do have a few suggestions. I want to share some of the activities I did whilst recovering from breast cancer. The stress of a cancer diagnosis, the ramifications of the surgery, and the adjuvant therapy treatment that followed left me completely haggard, extremely emotional, and utterly fatigued. But I had to find a way through because I had a toddler to care for. I had to be present in body and mind. And so I pursued activities that were gentle on my body yet stimulated my mind, alleviated my anxiety, and lifted my spirits. I incorporate these activities into my daily life, sharing them with my son. Today, I share them with you. These are not new ideas, nor are they mine to own. They are but gentle reminders to return to activities that can perhaps carry you through.
1. Jigsaw Puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles offer a total brain workout. They focus your mind, providing you with a mental exercise by working your problem-solving skills, logical thinking, and your memory. They also elicit emotions, spark creativity, and evoke intuitive thinking. Jigsaw puzzles are a calming activity and by doing them you can actually decreases your stress level. They are also an activity that can be done alone or with others. I enjoy doing puzzles whenever I am feeling restless of spirit yet too physically run-down to be active. Choosing to do a jigsaw puzzle allows me to sit quietly, be calm, yet still be productive. To read more about the benefits of doing a jigsaw puzzle visit Cronicas Puzzleras’ post 10 Surprising Benefits of Doing Puzzles.
2. Pleasure Reading. Reading for pleasure is a favoured hobby of mine. There are so many amazing benefits to reading for pleasure. Reading can make you feel more connected to the world. It can provide you with insight into the cultural/societal diversity of others as well as increase your own self-awareness. It can trigger memories, evoke a wide range of emotions, and feed your curiosity. The gift of storytelling has been with us for thousands of years. Essentially through reading, we are sharing in someone else’s story. We are learning empathy. We are finding compassion. We are connecting. Reading sparks the imagination, offers an escape from our own reality, and it challenges points of view. It also decreases stress and allows us a greater ability to cope with difficult situations. If you get serious with your pleasure reading you can even set reading goals for yourself or participate in book clubs. Goodreads is a fantastic social platform where you can connect with other readers, share books, and find fabulous reading recommendations.
3. Get Walking. Make a point of going for a walk. Even if it is only for 20 minutes a day. Fresh air, a brisk walk, and natural sunlight is uplifting for the spirit. The physical excursion is good for the body, and the natural sunlight is good for the soul. Too often, when we are feeling complacent, fatigued, or down-right bored we don’t make an effort to move our bodies. We get lazy. We get comfortable. But, to stay fit in body and fit in mind we need to move. A 20-minute walk can help clear your thoughts, recharge your body, and alter your mood. A simple daily walk can manage or reduce joint and/or muscle stiffness, reduce stress, and even boost immune function! That’s a plus during a pandemic!! It is also an activity you can enjoy with others during these isolating times. If you are feeling bored with walking (because it’s about all we’ve been able to enjoy this past year) then make it an activity: create a scavenger hunt; search for new walking routes; or explore trails. To find trails, visit Ontario Trails Map.
4. Play Music. Whether it is listening to music or playing an instrument, music is very healing for the soul. It is a powerful art form that can lift you up, inspire you, and focus you. I have discussed the importance of music in my previous posts Coping Through and A Coziness of the Soul. When I am not playing music on my turntable then I am strumming the strings of my [new] ukulele or tickling the ivory keys of my piano. I am not a musician. I am an amateur (at best) with a love for playing as I bumble along within my own self-instruction. But I don’t care that I am a beginner. I am happy. I am courageously learning something new. I am focusing my mind, taking it away from my anxieties. And, it’s fun to hear the music I am creating when I am not listening to the wondrous tunes of the truly talented musical artists. Music, just like books, tells a story. It can elicit powerful emotions and memories. It can calm the body, decrease stress and anxiety, and help you feel connected to the world surrounding you. I make music my everyday habit.
5. Colouring Books. There is a simplicity about colouring. Colouring, though not art therapy, is extremely therapeutic. Colouring induces a state of calm just as meditation does. When I colour my thoughts become restful, my anxieties slip away, and I feel focused. I am in the moment. I enjoy colouring and always have. The repetitive action of colouring exercises the brain just as jigsaw puzzles do. Colouring induces logical thinking (working to stay within the lines) as well as the creative thought process (choosing colours and colour patterns). It is also an activity I can enjoy with my son. We can simply be together, sharing pencil crayons, and sharing our simple creations. You can purchase adult colouring books at the local dollar store, off amazon, or visit the Colouring Book Shop at Indigo Books. There are hundreds of books to choose from.
6. Gratitude Journal. I have kept a journal for more than 32 years. Journaling has always kept me grounded. It gives me a safe place to express intense emotions/thoughts/anxieties without judgment. However a gratitude journal is a slightly different journaling technique. I will admit I’m not quite as diligent with my gratitude journal as I am with my traditional journal, but regardless the journal I am writing in, I am expressing myself and reflecting on my hopes, worries, everyday mundane experiences, and the gratitude I feel. Keeping a gratitude journal allows you to realize what wonderful things you do have in your life – you gain clarity and self-awareness. Journaling can also lower stress levels and induce a sense of calm. For many, it is challenging to start journaling, so start small. Don’t place a time limit on your journaling. Keep it simple. Begin by writing down 3 things you are grateful for. Do this everyday. If you need a template, the journal Good Days Start With Gratitude is fantastic (purchased from Amazon). As time passes you’ll find you are writing more. You may also find more things that you are grateful for.
7. Vacation Planning. It has been a very long year, filled with uncertainties, lockdowns, restrictions, and loss. It is hard to look forward into the future and plan. But, as someone who has experienced a parallel – living through breast cancer – I can attest to the importance of looking ahead. With a cancer diagnosis comes the reality of living in uncertainty – scared for your life, scared for your future, just every day scared. It’s not unlike how most of us are feeling today as we survive this pandemic. We are scared for our family, scared for our livelihood, and scared for our future. Facing these fears, acknowledging these fears, and learning to live with these fears is challenging at best. It’s exhausting at most. But – you have to move beyond them. Start planning your vacation. Your dream vacation. Take this time to research where you want to go, what you want to do, what compels you to go to that specific destination. Learn about the place – the biodiversity, the culture, the history, the cuisine. Learn all you can about it (this goes hand-in-hand with pleasure reading!). Find out what it would cost to travel and visit the sights you wish to see or partake in the activities you would like to experience. Create a vacation savings jar and start putting money into it or open a savings account that limits withdrawals. The big misconception most of us have (including me!) is that you have to save large amounts of money, which many of us cannot, and therefore we feel defeated before we’ve even begun. As silly as this sounds, fight for this like your life depends on it. If you deposit just a little per day/week/month your fund will grow. And while you are nurturing your vacation fund, focus on the planning. It will give you purpose. It will give your hope. It will inspire you to save. And… you will make your dream vacation happen despite the fear you lived through.
This has been our most challenging year – on a global scale – and although we feel isolated, we have gone through this together. The reality of the pandemic was something none of us could have predicted. The duration of the pandemic was something we could never have expected. It has been exhausting, and it is not over. Now more than ever we must hold on to the simple things that bring us joy and happiness. And, when you hit that wall of extreme pandemic fatigue, try some of these suggestions. They may give you solace, offer you joy, and provide you with peace. And remember, have faith not only in yourself but also in the future.
Seven Ways to Ease Pandemic Fatigue. Published by Crystal Joy Hall
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Insert Images by Jess Bailey Designs, Cottonbro, and Javier Gonzolez