Quarantine Fatigue and Ways to Cope

Is the end in sight yet? I used to be able to manage my time well. Now, I don’t feel like cooking, cleaning, or anything else. Am I depressed? Have you been feeling like this? If you said yes, you are not alone. So, why do I feel like this then? Quarantine fatigue.

Quarantine fatigue is defined as exhaustion associated with a new restrictive lifestyle to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Some say that quarantine fatigue can also lead to a decrease in attention to precautions. For example, complacency might mean that you sanitize your space less frequently or forget to wear a mask regularly when out. Symptoms can mimic a low-grade depression.

Common Symptoms of Quarantine Fatigue

These are common symptoms that others have experienced, but it is not an all-inclusive one.

  • Irritability, tenseness, or anxiety. Have you noticed that little things bother you more than they used to? Maybe you have snapped at your family, friends, or coworkers more frequently. Perhaps you have noticed that you feel anxious and don’t know why.
  • Eating or sleeping habit changes. Are you eating more, less, or foods that you do not normally eat? It might be that you sleep in a bit longer and go to bed a bit later. After all, many are working from home and do not need to go far getting to work.
  • Loss of motivation or reduced productivity. You created your daily to-do list intending to complete it with time to spare. Before you know it, it is time for bed, and your plan is incomplete. You wonder where the day went and how so much time passed?
  • Racing thoughts. Does it feel like you have so many ideas that you cannot focus on just one? Think of the ticker tape at the bottom of the news channel. These thoughts are rapid, overwhelming, repetitive, and interfere with concentration.
  • A general sense of unease. Something’s not quite right, but you can’t identify what it is.

The above list is part of the stress from this situation and all the unknowns and uncertainty. If you thought you might have some depressive symptoms, it could be quarantine fatigue. Some believe that surge capacity can explain signs of quarantine fatigue.

What is Surge Capacity?

Surge capacity is the mental and physical systems that we rely upon for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations. It is designed to be a "short-term" survival, not long-term. Think about natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados. The stress from these occurrences is not indefinite, like it seems the coronavirus pandemic is. Once our capacity to manage stress has been depleted, it must be replenished.

Think back to the lack of motivation. Day in and day out, we have adapted to a new way of life. Now, the Zoom meetings are tiresome and exhausting. Home is a haven and a prison. Housework, exercise, and other responsibilities have gone undone for days then weeks at a time. Surge capacity depletion might explain this. Perhaps you might feel a little depressed, but it isn’t quite clinical depression. There are some things you can do to cope.

Coping with Quarantine Fatigue and Surge Capacity Depletion

  • Understand ambiguous loss. Death is final, and this type of loss provides a sense of closure. Ambiguous loss has no certainty and does not have a resolution. Currently, the coronavirus pandemic fits this description. There does not seem to be an end in sight or a return to normalcy and is a loss in life pre-pandemic.
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the present awareness of the moment in an intentional and nonjudgmental way. Jon Kabat Zinn is often credited as the father of mindfulness, and he has several guided meditation videos on YouTube. Breathing is a simple method to practice mindfulness, as well. Becoming astute to the five senses can increase attention to the present moment. Find what works for you by trying various mindful methods.
  • Change perspective. One cannot be grateful and ungrateful simultaneously. Try it. It doesn’t work. For instance, maybe you are a “social butterfly” who was okay with working from home at first. Now, several months later, you might resent working from home. Changing perspective might sound like “I miss my friends and socializing. Now I can get to know myself. If I need social contact, I can find creative ways to do so.” Maybe plan a virtual movie or game night to ward off the loneliness.
  • Monitor your eating and sleeping The quarantine and limited activity might be the perfect time to learn some new, healthy recipes. Trying new dishes might just help with the rut. Try to get the appropriate amount of rest, too. Maybe sticking to a sleep routine close to before the coronavirus seclusion could be helpful. Exercising regularly can help with sleep and nutrition. Get outside for a walk in your neighborhood and soak up the sun’s vitamin D rays.
  • Self-care. We must take care of ourselves. Again, creativity is vital. Many of us defined self-care as pedicures, haircuts at the salon, massages, coffee at the local coffee shop, eating at restaurants, in-person exercise, etc. Unfortunately, these types of self-care have been affected by COVID-19. YouTube is great for teaching many things. There are plenty of exercise, nail art, and cooking videos to peruse. If you are not into cooking, maybe try a meal kit service instead. The idea is to meet our needs in a new way.
  • Reach out for help. The symptoms of quarantine fatigue might look like depression. Having a history of depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue can increase suicide risk or substance use. Do not suffer alone; reach out for help. Contact a trusted friend until you can receive the appropriate professional assistance. Substance users are more vulnerable, and use has increased during COVID-19.

If you need help to stop using drugs or alcohol, The Ho tai Way – Recovery for Women can help. We are open during the pandemic and have taken extra precautions to ensure your safety. Call (714) 581-3974 now to speak with one of our admissions staff.