The coronavirus pandemic began in the United States in March 2020, sparking fear and confusion. Americans were told to stay home and many offices across the country required their employees to work from home. Although restrictions are loosening, many are still staying in and working from the safety and comforts of home on the advice of many healthcare experts.
Stay-at-home orders and social distancing are going on three months now, so it's no wonder that many people are experiencing the very real and draining quarantine fatigue and its affects to mental health. The importance of psychological resilience and taking care of loved ones are paramount in this pandemic.
We talked to our Nebraska Methodist College Student Ambassadors about how they live life during a pandemic, the biggest downsides of staying at home and creative ways to defeat the dreaded coronavirus quarantine fatigue.
What is quarantine fatigue?
That sluggish, sad, bored mix of emotions you've been feeling from being too cooped up lately? It's real, and it has a name: quarantine fatigue. It's exactly what it sounds like. Sick of being stuck at home and away from family and friends. It's also accompanied by an intense longing for our former lives. Sound familiar? Don't worry; we're all struggling with it right now.
Quarantine fatigue looks different for everyone, but some of the most widespread and telltale signs are:
- Racing or intrusive thoughts
- Mental and physical exhaustion
- Changes in eating and/or sleeping habits
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Loss of motivation
- Social withdrawal
How is everyone holding up?
Although social media does provide an outlet for sharing and socializing, it doesn't entirely fill the void for some people. There is still a sense of loneliness and cabin fever involved with social distancing measure and staying home.
"Quarantine is going pretty well," said Chelsie Melia. "I miss interacting with others. Yes, we have Zoom, FaceTime, etc. but it's just not the same as sitting down and having coffee with someone."
"I miss being able to do things like going to the park with my daughter and the store without worrying if you'll come in contact with someone," said Ashley Boltin.
The vigilance of staying home, physical distancing in public and sanitizing grocery carts and door knobs sounds easy enough to maintain, but some public health experts are saying that a great deal of quarantine fatigue comes from the "intangible rewards." In other words, the benefits of staying home aren't seen so it can be hard to follow through with these necessary behaviors.
Taking Care of Yourself (and Others)
People are indeed creating their own benefits due to this situation, however. In addition to taking up new hobbies and spending more time with family and furry quarantine pals, some are looking for more creative ways to stay occupied and stimulated.
"I do like how I have all this time to focus on my creative side!" said Charleen Marsh. "I have been sewing headbands and scrunchies, painting, gardening, and designing t-shirts."
"I have been spending a lot of time cooking and baking with my oldest son," Melia explained. "We also planted a vegetable garden and have been working on our yard."
Those who are parents or are caring for loved ones at risk during social isolation aren't just fighting fatigue for themselves but others.
"My son is only 2 years old and active all hours of the day," said Donisha Richardson. "I've been channeling my inner kid for mine and treating each moment as a learning opportunity for him. Not only do we get to 'play school' but we get to spend quality time with each other."
The consensus from experts for fighting quarantine fatigue is having conversations with loved ones, focusing on self-care, and shifting your mindset so you can seek some kind of reward. Seeking the benefits of temporarily giving up activities and socialization and focusing on the positive is another way to practice resilience as well.
Coming to terms with the "new normal" is crucial in moving forward and healing mentally. NMC's ambassadors have embraced life today while accepting the changes, difficult as they may be. Keep busy, stay creative and connected, and take care of yourself (mentally and physically). We're all in this together, after all.