August 4, 2020

Anxiety, poor sleep, bad moods: How to combat quarantine fatigue?

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During this pandemic, find healthy ways to pace yourself mentally and emotionally.

If you’re feeling worried, unmotivated or drained, those may be signs of quarantine fatigue.

Jim Kendall, LCSW, CEAP, manager of Work-Life Connections for Vanderbilt University Medical Center employees, explains the feeling of quarantine fatigue, and how to combat it to gain more mental energy.

Kendall describes quarantine fatigue in terms of many negative emotions, including discouragement, irritability and stress due to uncertainty. Among other things, these moods can lead to eating more or less than usual; being less productive than usual; and/or poor sleep, including vivid dreams.

“We can be less productive. It’s hard to feel motivated,” Kendall said. “You can feel drained, cranky and worried. It’s easy to feel scattered. That fatigue can happen to us both in our bodies and in our minds.”

Taking time to recharge your emotional batteries can help reduce stress and feel more positive, he said.

What hobbies or activities refresh you? Whatever helps ease your stress and boost your energy, practice that activity often, Kendall said. It may help to set aside time in your planner for this. Treat that time like you would any important appointment – don’t let distractions break that “appointment” with yourself.

Some ideas for fighting quarantine fatigue:

• Spend time outside.
• Cook a new recipe.
• Try a different hobby.
Stretch and move your body. Take up a new form of exercise — maybe switching things up from walking to running?
• Find something that makes you laugh.
• Read a book.
• Listen to music that energizes and cheers you. (This makes errands and housework almost enjoyable.)
Meditate.
• Plan an activity for the future, something to look forward to.

Kendall pointed out resources that can help:

  • Paid vacation time. Don’t put off using vacation time until it’s safe to take a big trip, he said. Scheduling a few vacation days for brief breaks from work over the next few months can help you recharge your mental batteries, he said, even if you take a “staycation.”
  • Some employers offer confidential counseling, life coaching and other services that can help you manage stress. Often these benefits are free of charge. This is an excellent time to make use of such resources. Check with your Human Resources staff to learn what’s available to you.
  • Limit consumption of news and social media to what you feel is necessary to stay well informed, without allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by bad news. If reading or watching many reports about the coronavirus every day is adding to your anxiety or discouragement, try cutting back to one brief update per day. Knowing the latest public health guidelines about protecting yourself from the coronavirus is important, but you can stay informed without monitoring every report, phone alert or tweet.
  • Create predictable routines for your day. What’s your best time for work, exercise, relaxing with family, working on a hobby?
  • A healthy routine for sleep is especially important. If you’re no longer sleeping on a regular schedule, get back to setting a consistent bedtime and wakeup time. There are many other things you can also do to get better sleep, which helps fight anxiety and stress.

Kendall emphasized that we all need coping strategies that will work long-term, because it’s likely we will be dealing with the coronavirus pandemic for many more months. Find what works for your mood and mental health, and do it regularly.

“We have to set attainable well-being goals we can implement,” Kendall said. “They might be small goals, but be sure we can achieve them.”

This information is presented by Health Plus, which provides resources to support the health of Vanderbilt University Medical Center faculty and staff.

Don’t put off needed healthcare. Vanderbilt University Medical Center and its clinics are taking extra steps to care for patients while keeping them as safe as possible from the coronavirus. How we keep you and your family safe.