Coping with ‘quarantine fatigue’

Arthur, 28, has been cooped up in his apartment since quarantine measures were imposed on Metro Manila in March. He lives alone and works from home, only going out for quick grocery runs or any essential errands that can’t be done digitally. 

Coping with ‘quarantine fatigue’
DOWN AND DRAINED. Experts define ‘quarantine fatigue’ as exhaustion associated with the new restrictive lifestyle adopted to slow down the spread of COVID-19.
“The first few months were relatively easy. I quickly adjusted to the situation, and, thank God for digital services, was able to create a micro world at home where everything is within my reach,” shares Arthur, who works for an international auditing firm. 

While he considers himself luckier than many, he admits the long period of isolation and the need to adjust to this unfamiliar way of life have been recently taking a toll on his mental well-being which then extends to his physical health. 

“Even though I’m mostly at home, I’ve been feeling down and exhausted lately; I can’t explain this feeling,” he relates. “I’ve become more anxious, thinking about the future and what would happen in the next days or weeks or months.”

What Arthur and many have been going through lately is what experts call “quarantine fatigue.”

“Quarantine fatigue may look different from person to person, but overall, it’s defined as exhaustion associated with the new restrictive lifestyle that’s been adopted to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Luna Marques of Massachusetts General Hospital Community Psychiatry said in an article published on the institution’s website. 

Symptoms, according to Dr. Marques, may include feeling tense, irritable, or anxious; changes in eating or sleeping habits; loss of motivation or reduced productivity; racing thoughts; interpersonal conflict; and social withdrawal. 

The Benilde Well-Being Center (BWC), led by its director El Anelio Barnachea, MA, RGC, in partnership with vice president for Lasallian Mission and Student Life Neil Pariñas, notes that this “gloomy weariness” may attack in different ways in varying intensities. 

To help in coping with quarantine fatigue, the BWC offers the following tips. 

Understand the difference between wants and needs

According to the well-being center, the first step toward healing is to understand and acknowledge the difference between wants and needs, and placing more importance to what’s essential. 

“It is important to prioritize the basic needs such as food, water, shelter, clothing, sleep, safety, and support. If you are struggling with meeting your basic needs, reach out for help.”

Coping with ‘quarantine fatigue’
The feeling of gloomy weariness may attack in different ways in varying intensities; however one may be feeling is valid in its own right.
Explore your wants

Once the foundational needs are met, BWC recommends moving on to the things “that you want to accomplish such as to read books, cultivate new skill sets, engage in hobbies such as baking, gardening, art, or even learn a new language.”

Pursuing education and growth amid the quarantine helps break the dangerously boring monotony of everyday life.

Maintain a routine

A routine serves as an anchor when the future is unclear, undefined, and uncertain. This may include sleeping and waking at the same hour every day, eating nutritious food, and engaging in physical activities all while practicing mindfulness.

To uplift mood, explore outdoors occasionally and safely to soak up some sunlight and change the scenery.

Acknowledge and validate negative feelings

People may push away fears, anxieties, frustrations, helplessness, sadness, and powerlessness in their efforts to cope, but experts say it’s better to acknowledge them and harness them in productive ways. 

“We must acknowledge, accept, and consider sharing them with family, friends, partners, or professionals. One can maintain a daily or weekly journal to note down and express feelings, which can be reflected on at the end of the week.”

Seek short-term rewards by setting manageable goals

Instant gratification from short-term rewards can also be helpful, providing an immediate sense of purpose and accomplishment, according to experts. 

“Identify something within your control such as completing simple projects, de-cluttering a drawer or some documents, or finishing a chapter in a book.”

Practice new forms of self-care

Extra unstructured time provides a chance to explore different self-care habits. “This is the perfect opportunity to try the activities you’ve always wanted to do such as indulging in a healthier diet, daily exercises, or skin care routines.”

Coping with ‘quarantine fatigue’

Consider making time for therapy

Feel free to seek help from a professional. However, if office appointments are not available, BWC recommends online or telephone sessions. “This is a very good time to understand yourself more deeply, learn how to control and recognize your emotions. These will equip us to eventually grow as a person.”

Topics: COVID-19 , Dr. Luna Marques , fatigue , quarantine , BWC
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