We’re more than eight months into quarantine, and many are tiring and feeling anxious, depressed, unmotivated, and unclear about what comes next. We seem to have moved away from the early energy of quarantine (looking at you: bread bakers, language learners). Many are exhausted, lonely, hopeless, and helpless. We’re tired of being locked down, isolated, and unable to participate in life. The experience has been termed, “quarantine fatigue.”
To cope with the physical and emotional consequences of quarantine fatigue, here are some things you can do, right now, sourced from our DBT skills groups.
- Get outside: Spend some time each day outdoors. If this isn’t possible, perhaps crack a window to get some fresh air. Nature can help us regulate our nervous systems.
- Nourish yourself: Eat enough food, including food you enjoy. It’s hard to regulate your emotions when you are underfed. Nourish your body. Eat foods that bring you pleasure and enjoyment.
- Seek out positive experiences: Do at least one thing a day that brings you joy, satisfaction, contentment, pleasure, peace, or love. Actively work to create positive experiences and emotions.
- Regulate your sleep: Make sure you’re getting enough, but not too much sleep. Quarantine seems to be wreaking havoc of some folks’ sleep-wake cycles. See if you can regulate yours by engaging in some basic sleep hygiene strategies (e.g., turning off devices an hour or more before bedtime, waking at the same time each day).
- Build mastery: Do at least one thing a day that helps you build mastery. Choose an activity that helps you feel competent or effective. Maybe you practice a new skill, work on a puzzle, or put together a piece of furniture. Start with easier challenges and increase the difficulty as you go.
- Move your body: If you are able, engage in some form of physical activity each day, being careful not to make your relationship with exercise compulsive. Maybe you go for a walk one day and stretch the next. Maybe it’s something more energetic, like a bike ride or swimming, or a fun activity, like dancing or roller skating.
- Practice reality acceptance: It’s easy, as quarantine fatigue lingers, to get frustrated and resistant to what’s happening. Notice what we call “willfulness” and see if you can turn toward “willingness,” playing the cards you’re dealt and accepting what is with your mind, heart, and body. Remember, acceptance doesn’t mean that you like or approve of something, just that you acknowledge that it’s happening and decide to work with, rather than against, it.
- Stay connected: Make contact with at least one other human each day, especially important if you live alone. Our animal friends are helpful for connection too.
- Cut yourself some slack: This isn’t a time to be judging or criticizing yourself. Whether you’re less patient or productive, are experiencing a return or increase of symptoms, or are having control reining in your anxiety, give yourself a break. Direct some compassion to yourself. You’re doing the best your can.
- Get help: If you continue to struggle with quarantine fatigue, find someone who can see you online. Most therapists are equipped to work with you remotely, even if your preference is for in-person therapy. For those missing or lacking social contact or connection, online group therapy can be a helpful modality to provide you that much-needed interpersonal support.