We’re in the dog days of winter — of the Covid-19 winter.
Dog days usually refer to the oppressive days of August, when heat and humidity leave us sluggish, exhausted and yearning for relief.
In awful 2020, the seasons flipped.
As the pandemic digs in for its winter resurgence, nearly everyone I know feels exhausted or sad or drained or worn out. We yearn for relief.
It isn’t the summer sun beating down on us, but the unrelenting, suffocating drumbeat of bad news.
Covid Fatigue Sets In
Public health experts call it “Covid-19 fatigue,” the accumulated toll of this relentless year.
How did we get here?
Covid-19 forced us to cut the threads that connect us to one another and close ourselves off from the flow of life energy that comes from those connections.
We have isolated from friends, family and colleagues. We have left behind the comfort of hugging our elderly parents and watching them beam at their grandchildren. We have baked bread to create a cozy home, but lost the hearth to smart phones and video games. We have lived under constant threat of losing our jobs, shuttering our businesses, or letting go of valued employees. We have confronted the fear of illness and, for many, faced the suffering or even loss of loved ones.
We tried optimism. We pretended a family Zoom call was a fine substitute for attending graduation. We conquered home-improvement projects hoping to bolster our feelings of accomplishment. We joked about dressing from the waist up as we pushed through hours of work with screens of disembodied faces.
It seems each beam of sunshine is fast hidden by haze. The celebration of a new vaccine is tempered by the emergence of a new, quick-moving variant virus. The ebb of illness over the summer is replaced overflowing ICUs in fall.
It is hardly surprising that we feel down. Tired. Sick of it. How could we feel otherwise?
3 Truths To Help You Cope With Covid Fatigue
Covid-19 fatigue is more than physical tiredness. It is spiritual malaise.
If you are physically tired, you can feel better after a nap. If you need the energy of interaction, you can meet friends for a drink or a walk in the park. You can cheer yourself up with retail therapy or going for a run.
Covid-19 hits too deep for those pick-me-ups.
We are simply unaccustomed or unprepared to encounter illness, death and tragedy every day without abatement.
You are not alone.
If you have done all you can to feel better and you still don’t, you are not alone. People have tried many things to cheer themselves up this winter: Neighbors put up Christmas trees before Thanksgiving; companies organized virtual holiday happy hour, and my friends and I observed Hanukkah, the Jewish “Festival of Lights” even while admitting the holiday felt “blech” this year.
You may be alone in your home, but your experience and feelings are shared by many, many people. You are not the lone, sad wolf. You are a member of a worn-out pack.
There is nothing wrong with you.
When you feel Covid-19 fatigue in isolation, it’s natural to wonder, “What’s wrong with me?” Perhaps you feel ashamed of your declining productivity or baffled by unusual lethargy. You may chastise yourself for looking away from the news or ignoring messages. Other people may ask, “What’s going on with you? Are you ok?” and you’re unsure how to answer.
To be clear, clinical depression is different from Covid-19 fatigue. Depression has its own recognizable symptoms. If you are depressed, there isn’t anything “wrong” with you either, but it is imperative to seek professional help and treatment.
What I’m talking about is the lack of drive you feel to tie everything up neatly at the end of the year. Or the grumpy, irritable reaction you have when your partner asks you to empty the dishwasher. Or the lack of interest you feel in getting the blowup, red-nosed Rudolph out of the garage and onto the lawn.
When you or someone else asks you what’s wrong with you, you can answer simply: “I have ‘Covid-19 fatigue.’
Right now, feeling bad is good.
Paradoxically, it’s a good thing to feel bad right now. It means you are plugged in to our collective experience. We live in this dark moment together across the world. You are letting it in.
It also means you are not in denial. A friend told me that her mother insisted the family come home for Christmas, saying, “We won’t let Covid win!” That isn’t reality right now. We can’t beat Covid by pretending we can beat it if only we are determined or cheerful enough.
We feel helpless because we are helpless. We wash our hands. We wear our masks. But we also ache in the bosom of our being because we cannot fix this. We cannot fake our way through it.
What we can do is let ourselves experience, to feel, what is happening all around us. Standing in the truth is good, even if it feels bad.
You might find this column depressing. You might wonder what’s going on with me.
But here’s the deal: I have Covid-19 fatigue.
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