Coping with pandemic fatigue

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BY RACHEL MINA & UMIE SYAZWANIE MOHD

KUCHING: It’s okay to feel bored, sad or demotivated but always have an extra sense of self-love while staying realistic and making peace with your emotions to fight pandemic fatigue, says an academician.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), pandemic fatigue refers to the gradual loss of motivation to engage in recommended preventive behaviours, influenced by a variety of emotions, experiences and perspectives.

Health experts and psychologists said with Malaysia and the world gripped with the pandemic for over one-and-a-half years now, the phenomenon appeared to be growing.

WHO said at this point of a crisis, such demotivation was natural and expected, as evidenced by its statement that an increasing number of people were failing to adhere to government recommendations and restrictions.

Symptoms of pandemic fatigue included boredom, extreme fatigue and a lack of motivation to work or engage in other activities.

Fatahyah Yahya

A senior lecturer with the Faculty of Cognitive Science and Human Development, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Dr Fatahyah Yahya, said as far as Malaysia was concerned, pandemic fatigue was not only growing but had reached a worrying level.

“Pandemic fatigue is also regarded as a psychological symptom, which if left untreated, may lead to chronic health issues.

“People suffering from pandemic fatigue would have sentiments such as, ‘I am completely overwhelmed. I am highly anxious. I am feeling alone and lonely. I am not sure how much longer I can keep going like this.

“If prolonged, the sentiments may lead to a form of stress and burnout.”

Fatahyah said investing in self-care was perhaps more important than ever, for both individual wellbeing and social health.

She suggested that people “increase your communication with family, friends and colleagues about your feelings and needs and reach out if you need help and always remind yourself ‘I am not alone’.”

Fatahyah, who is also a qualified counsellor, said a critical way to succeed through the pandemic experience was by embracing the quest to move forward.

“Given all the uncertainties, developing adaptability is important. Instead of asking reasons and answers to all these uncertainties, embrace uplifting messages that focus on acceptance rather than returning to normalcy.

“Live now, plan your time well. Diversify your therapeutic and enjoyable activities such as gardening, cooking, or writing.

“For those working from home, define clear boundaries between work and family to avoid double weariness.”

Nor Hasniah Ibrahim

Another senior lecturer with the faculty, Nor Hasniah Ibrahim, also shared similar views.

She said having control over your emotions was one way to overcome pandemic fatigue.

“Accept that any feelings such as sad, upset, angry or frustrated are normal and understandable during this challenging time. Be convinced that you are not alone.”

Nor Hasniah, who is also in the Unimas counselling programme, advised people to practice breathing exercises at least three times a day to better manage anxiety or stress.

“Be active and do physical activities such as exercising, running, or jogging, anything that is enjoyable to you and encourages bodily movement,” she added.

According to her, it was also important to take breaks from electronic devices. “The amount of time we spent on the Internet, especially on social media platforms, can affect our mental health.”

The high amount of screen time exposed people to a lot of information that might influence them emotionally, causing anxiety, confusion, and exhaustion, she explained.

“We have no other choices but to comply with the various SOPs. But please keep in mind, we must also find ways to care for our mental health, since many are feeling having signs of anxiety and despair.”

In light of the increasing trend of pandemic fatigue, New Sarawak Tribune also spoke to two respondents.

Anisa Nyareng

One of them, Anisa Nyareng, said she had been experiencing pandemic fatigue lately and it had worsened by the fact that she lived alone.

“I have been away from my family throughout this whole time. I believe these, to some extent, affected my mental and emotional health.”

The 28-year-old said she had been adhering to the SOPs all this while, however, there were times when she felt lonely and wished to be with her family.

Azrul Jemat

Azrul Jemat, 21, expressed his frustrations over the circumstances he had to face as a university student during the pandemic.

“Online learning comes with many challenges. Not only do we have to deal with the shoddy Internet connection, but we also have to cope with an increase in workload.

“I also have to juggle my responsibilities as a son as well, managing my time between studying and doing house chores. By the end of the day, I would feel drained and exhausted.”

Azrul pointed out should this situation persisted, he believed it would contribute to stress and burnout among students in the same situation as him.

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