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quarantine fatigue


We all know the facts about the coronavirus pandemic thus far.  It’s a new virus, reportedly transmitted from bats to humans at a produce market in Wuhan, China and it’s spreading all across the world.  We are also being told that with population growth and climate change, this sort of thing is likely to happen more and more in the coming decades as well.


Unfortunately, what the facts don’t tell us and what scientists can’t measure in labs is the psychological toll that being stuck inside takes on all of us as human beings.  It’s one thing to talk about in the abstract, but it’s another matter entirely when, week after week, our coworkers are nothing more than little squares on a computer screen and we’re deprived of the simple daily interaction that comes from buying our morning latte, having lunch with a client, or even chatting for a few minutes with someone in front of the copy machine.  Even the most introverted among us still needs that human interaction. We’re just a little better at hiding it than our kids.


So with that in mind, let’s look at some practical ways to deal with the exhaustion we’re all feeling right now due to the coronavirus.  And we’ll pretend that Arizona hasn’t just had a fresh set of wildfires, or that California just had another earthquake.


  • Acknowledge your feelings.  The first step to managing your emotions is to appreciate what it is that you’re feeling.  It’s perfectly natural to feel anxious and depressed and to have trouble sleeping right now, as that’s a physical manifestation of the stresses we’re all facing, and has been a driver of the protests in the streets.  Those emotions are what make us human, and an unintentional reminder of how fortunate we all were to wake up this morning.


  • Give yourself permission to have a life, but use common sense.  The process of “flattening the curve” was about managing the impact of Covid-19 on our healthcare system, not about eliminating its spread altogether.  So even though things are starting to open up again, the coronavirus is still out there and you and your family can still contract the virus and spread it to others, without even knowing it.  So, by all means, go out to dinner with your spouse or take the kids for some fast food, but remember to still practice social distancing, wear masks as needed, wash your hands, and be respectful of the fears of the waitstaff and service workers everywhere.  They have families too.


  • Focus on controlling what you can control.  As the old saying goes, if you want God to laugh at you, make plans.  Unfortunately, the timeline for containing the coronavirus and developing a vaccine is beyond our individual control.  But we can be conscious of the day to day things that we can control, starting with our reaction to the extraordinary events of this year.


  • Stay on top of your finances.  One concrete way to tackle the anxiety we’re all feeling right now is to make sure that your finances are in order.  Make sure to stay on top of your bills and file payment extensions as needed.  Follow the exact letter of the law for all the paperwork required for stimulus payments or unemployment insurance (don’t give government clerks any easy reason to deny your application), and analyze your expenses and cut back on non-essentials. Check in with your broker and make sure that their team is working to minimize the damage to your investments as the stock market goes up and down.  Short of physical crime and health challenges, economic anxiety is one of the most stressful things we all face as adults, so tackling that head on is one way to be able to sleep at night and have less stress rub off onto your kids.


  • Work on projects around the house that you’ve been putting off.  This is another concrete way to channel your anxiety into productive ends.  For example, one friend of ours is currently building a grilling station in his back yard that he’d been planning for several years.  With his consulting work slowing down during the pandemic, the physical work of gathering the wood and other materials together, sawing and nailing together all of the 2x4s, and bringing the project to completion has been a productive, satisfying way to release his pent-up anxiety.  The same can be said for planting a garden, painting a spare bedroom, or whatever other tasks you haven’t had time for.  It’ll also give you an excuse to get out to the hardware store without the danger of a large crowd at a movie, restaurant, concert, museum, etc.


  • Build up your skill set for work.  So many online education platforms have offered content for free during the pandemic that, particularly if you’re between jobs right now, the offerings have never been this good.  Now is the time to learn some more about web design, or learn a bit of a foreign language, or a new computer program for work.


  • Catch up with old friends. This is one of the best pieces of advice we’ve heard during the pandemic.  If you have a friend from school or a cousin that you haven’t talked to in several years, now is the time to have some virtual cocktails together.  Friends of ours are even organizing class reunions right now, because the timing will never be better…  even if the circumstances certainly could be.


  • Explore nature with your family.  This is another good way to get some healthy exercise and work off your nervous energy.  If there’s a forest preserve or a national park nearby that you and your family have been meaning to hike or explore, now is a perfect time to do so.  Just don’t go to the beach, lakeshore, or a pool – those are prime breeding grounds for virus transmission right now


  • Remember that this, too, shall pass.  We never truly appreciate the good times unless we have some bad times, and that’s important to remember when the world grinds to a halt like it has over the last few months.  By doing our best day in and day out to be productive, stay optimistic, and meet our obligations we’ll manage to put these times behind us soon enough.