COVID Fatigue Is Real — Here's How To Fight It

If you're struggling to stay vigilant and aware of what's happening with the COVID-19 pandemic, you're not alone: COVID fatigue is a real thing, and it's dangerous. Feeling a sense of COVID fatigue can lead to easing restrictions, skipping things like mask-wearing, inviting a few people over for dinner, and generally flouting public health advisories around COVID-19 transmission. 

This is understandable: Psychologist Kaye Hermanson told Refinery29 that humans aren't meant to maintain high levels of stress for long periods of time, and after eight months in lockdown, it's natural that our brains are tired of being stressed and scared, and the response is to start to relax your rule-following. 

"We either become habituated to that level of stress or the stress level goes down a little bit and even if we're there's danger out in the world, we're not facing an immediate danger," psychologist Susan Albers told the Cleveland Clinic. If you haven't contracted COVID-19 and don't know anyone who has, you may find yourself relaxing a bit too much in public, skipping social distancing, or making plans that you wouldn't have at the start of the pandemic.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also explained COVID fatigue in a recent press conference, saying, "COVID fatigue is, 'we're doing this a long time, I thought it was a short-term situation, it's going on and on and on and I'm getting tired of it, and I'm tired of wearing the mask, and I'm tired of putting my life on hold.'"

How can you handle COVID fatigue?

COVID fatigue can lead to less discipline and less compliance, Cuomo added. And right now is a bad time for this fatigue to be happening, since the cold weather is forcing people indoors and case counts are rising rapidly.

You also might feel helpless and overwhelmed, and that can make you want to turn off the news and pretend that everything is back to normal, rather than facing the reality that COVID-19 is still a deadly pandemic. "It's like we're in the middle of the ocean," behavioral health therapist Jane Pernotto Ehrman, MEd., told the Cleveland Clinic. "The ocean is COVID-19 and we're not seeing land anywhere. It's that feeling of helplessness. Like there's nothing you can do — or you can do everything right and still get sick.

But it's critical to acknowledge and move past COVID fatigue in order to keep you and your loved ones safe. Try to get back into routines around hand washing and sanitizing, keep masks on hand in the car or in all of your coat pockets for easy access, and consider going back to using services like grocery delivery if possible to avoid crowds. And remember that the feeling of fatigue is normal and natural, and you're not alone. Lastly, if you feel as though you need help coping with your feelings, consider seeking professional help.