by Bulbul Beri
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash
This lockdown, I have been battling with low energy, lack of motivation, anxiety, disconnect as well as having difficulty prioritising the important things as well as taking a lot longer to do them. I have spoken with so many others during this current lockdown who have told me they have been feeling quite flat and exhausted too. Apparently, there is a term for this feeling – lockdown fatigue.
What causes lockdown fatigue?
For those of us living alone, the loneliness and monotony of our current circumstances may cause tiredness.
For those of us who are wearing all our hats simultaneously – working from home, parenting, home schooling, caring for little ones, supporting our vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours this can be understandably, exhausting.
For those of us, who are doing less, may have lost our jobs, not commuting, not going anywhere unless it is essential, lives have slowed down and we may wonder why we are feeling so tired.
This tiredness is not physical but emotional as we may are experiencing stress and anxiety caused by being in an uncertain and stressful situation over a long period of time and unsure of how and when it it will end.
A disruption to routines, social isolation, restricted freedoms, overdose of negative COVID – 19 news and lack of new stimulus can make us feel without purpose and apathetic.
How can you manage lockdown fatigue?
According to the Australian Psychological Society, there are things we can do to combat fatigue, increase our energy, reduce our stress and anxiety and improve our focus and productivity:
1.Establish Structure and Routine
My flexible working hours have meant that I have been letting work and play times run into each other with no clear boundaries so the days were blending into each other. Starting a course last week to do my Pilates Teacher Training has meant that I have had to make a timetable for work, study, walking the dogs, spending time with kids and housework and cooking so I manage to fit everything in. This has helped me feel more focused and purposeful in my day and improved my motivation. Establishing a clear structure to our day helps us to gain some control over our lives and define our work and play times so we are able to be more productive and derive more enjoyment from each. Planning out our days and scheduling in fun activities and socialisation gives us something to look forward to which gives our mental and emotional energy a boost.
2. Get the Basics Right
Prioritise Healthy Sleep Habits
A lack of good quality sleep can leave us feeling depleted, irritable and unable to focus. Our lack of normal routines in lockdowns may mean we go to bed later and wake later, disrupting our circadian rhythm and our production of the sleep hormone melatonin. My pre lockdown routine involved dropping my children to the station at 7.30am before starting my home chores and workday and having a routine of dinner around 7pm. During lockdown, all our hours have been more flexible and we have been starting and finishing our day later, throwing out our normal sleep patterns. I have been trying to establish a consistent sleep and wake time routine. Other things which can help improve sleep quality include:
- reducing sugar, caffeine and alcohol in the hours before bedtime.
- exercising during the day
- meditating, reading, journaling and/or a brain-dump before bed
- a warm bath/shower before bed
- turning off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed.
- dark curtains and/or eye mask, low lights or candlelight before bed
Try picking one of the above and implement for a week and see if it makes a difference, if your sleep quality is not currently as good as you would like.
Going for a walk or doing an online exercise class can make you feel physically tired but in the long term it will energise you. A couple of weeks ago I timetabled in online pilates classes 4 times a week and walking my dogs for at least half an hour a day and have recently started feeling more energised from this.
Eating a balanced diet which includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, lean proteins and healthy fats is very important for regulating our energy and moods. Focus on nutrition and limit processed and high sugar, high fat foods. Include iron rich foods for energy and stay hydrated by remembering to drink enough water.
Get Some Sun
Spending some time in the sun gives us a much needed vitamin D boost, warmth and positivity. Sunshine boosts your body’s level of serotonin and dopamine, both happy hormones which regulate our mood, reduce stress and increase energy. It also helps regulate melatonin which helps us lower stress and have better sleep, which also improves our energy levels. On the days I have a cup of tea outside in my garden in the sun before I start my day, I definitely feel more energised!
Humans are social creatures and are missing spending time with our families and friends. Social distancing, isolating and lockdown is having a profound effect on people’s mental health. I am usually a very social person and enjoy the company of my friends and family. However this lockdown, I had been feeling very emotionally distant as well as physically distant from everyone. I am lucky to have lovely friends and family who text, call and organise zoom calls and games and who have been understanding of my need to be in my bubble the past couple of months. But now I am consciously starting to reach out again as I know those connections are what gives my life its meaning and richness. Here are some tried and tested ways to feel more connected to your loved ones whilst in lockdown.
4. Practice Self Care
Taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually is very important especially right now. When our tanks are full, we show up as the best versions of ourselves. We are kinder, more patient, more focused and less reactive. Self-care is individual. What works for one person may not work for another. Knowing what works for you and having some tools to help is the key. If you need help to work out a self care plan that works for you, Dr Reetu can help. You can contact her here.
6.Beware of News Fatigue
It is important to keep yourself informed by reading reputable news sources, but limit how much time you spend on reading. Constantly listening to or reading stories about coronavirus can be overwhelming and can cause anxiety to intensify.
7. Reach Out
If you are struggling with lockdown fatigue, or finding it difficult to cope with any aspect of COVID-19, a psychologist, counsellor or wellness coach may be able to help.