We’re in uncharted territory, brothers and sisters. None of us has ever lived through a pandemic before. And the news isn’t good: more and more people are getting the virus, hospitals are filling up as businesses and activities shut down.
It’s a rough time. My clients are more anxious than usual; it would be pretty strange not to be. “This (pandemic) has gone on for too long”, a client told me yesterday.
Indeed, we have COVID fatigue and we’re tired of:
not having sex with hot guys/girls
not going to clubs, parties, concerts, raves, concerts, plays, performances
working from home
being with our partner 24/7
gaining weight/eating as comfort
drinking too much (numbing our unhappiness)
masturbating/watching too much porn
loss of income
loss of work
can’t go to the gym/yoga classes
the end of COVID seems so far away
sick of ZOOM calls/meetings/workshops
afraid to get on an airplane or take a vacation
I needn’t go on, you get the drift. With San Diego’s recent slide back into the purple phase, many of us are disheartened and discouraged, wondering: “When will this end?” As a psychotherapist, I hear this every day from my clients (I hear it in my own head too).
But, we are strong, smart, creative people…we always come through. Looking back at history, we (eventually) triumph over dire circumstances. So, how can we do so now? I’d like to share a three-step approach that I use with my clients (and myself):
Step one: Know what you want to do (aspiration)
Be very clear on your goal(s): write them down. For example:
I want to wear a mask whenever I leave the house
I want to keep working out/doing yoga/exercising at home or outside
I want to safely stay in touch with my friends, e.g., going for walks with them, meeting for lunch outside, using FaceTime or Zoom to see them regularly
I want to do things that lift my spirits (watch great movies, read more, meditate, go outside, ride my bike, walk in my neighborhood, go for drives in the countryside)
I will be kind to my partner, even though we can drive each other crazy by being together so much
I will spend more time with my beloved dog/cat/pet, giving and receiving love and affection
Step two: Commit to doing it (dedication)
Consciously make a commitment to doing what you decided in step one. Take a few seconds each morning and repeat your goals, refreshing your intentions for the day. In these uncertain times, this is a very grounding and calming way to start the day.
Read your list throughout the day. I’ve taken the most helpful items on my list and put them on post-its on the bathroom mirror (so I see them when I shave), next to my computer monitor, on the refrigerator, on the dashboard of my car…places where I’ll regularly be reminded of what it is I want to do.
Step three: Find good reasons to do it (motivation)
Without motivation, the most wonderful intentions just fizzle out. We all need some kind of rewards for doing something difficult. How can you motivate yourself? Consider these suggestions:
I will reward myself with praise: “I wore my mask every time I went out this week: I did it, even though it was a drag. Well done!”
I will reward myself by buying myself something nice
I will reward myself with delicious food/making a really nice meal
I will reward myself by telling myself that I am contributing to the health of my community/city
I will reward myself by getting support and praise from my friends to stay on task
The pandemic isn’t over, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A vaccine is coming and a Biden/Harris administration will bring sanity and science to COVID leadership.
If COVID fatigue is severely impacting your day-to-day life, please reach out to a mental health professional for support.
COVID fatigue is real. I hope that the ideas in this column are helpful to you in mastering it and helping to bring the pandemic to an end…and soon!