Pandemic Fatigue: more than a typical bad day at work
With the expected timeline of this public health crisis unknown, the Covid-19 pandemic is taking an increasing toll on Canadians’ mental health. Most of us understand the potential impacts of Covid-19 on our physical health, but what about the mental health impacts? Government mandated social distancing and isolation periods, the fear of infection, and the reshaping of our day-to-day lives have taken a toll on our emotional and psychological well-being, leading to what has been termed “Pandemic Fatigue.”
What is Pandemic Fatigue?
Under the prolonged stress of shifting requirements in the home and workplace due to the pandemic, it is completely normal to burn out. Pandemic Fatigue can be thought of as a type of burnout specific to the conditions the pandemic has placed on our lives and may differ from what someone may experience due to the day-to-day expectations of their job and life. Pandemic Fatigue may include feelings of fatigue, frustration, anxiety, loneliness, and demotivation.
How Can I Recognize Pandemic Fatigue?
How someone is affected by Pandemic Fatigue will vary. Here are some of the more common symptoms of Pandemic Fatigue and how to recognize them in yourself, your employees, and others.
Although throughout the pandemic Canadians have demonstrated the ability to be flexible, not knowing when we will be asked to adapt again and for how long, is leaving some individuals feeling detached and chronically stressed. This can cause an interruption in normal sleep habits which may lead to fatigue.
A person suffering from fatigue may experience increased irritability, a drop in quality decision making, lack of focus, overall tiredness, and decreased motivation.
Many are experiencing the frustration that comes with having to adapt to ever-changing restrictions and rules that impact our mental, physical, and financial health.
Frustration may be experienced as impatience with fellow co-workers or family members, giving up on a task that is challenging, and being more likely to lose your temper when facing conflict.
With the uncertainty around one’s personal well-being, as well as the future of our communities, the effect of chronic anxiety is at the core of Pandemic Fatigue.
Anxiety can be experienced by a lack of confidence in your actions, avoiding new or challenging tasks, requiring more reassurance to get work done, and giving in to procrastination and distraction. Chronic anxiety can lead to an anxiety attack. Anxiety attacks happen when stress builds over time and culminates in a sudden onset of overwhelming panic – this may include such symptoms as an increased heart rate, trouble concentrating, dizziness, and the feeling of impending doom.
Our increased isolation from the varied kinds of interactions that normally make up our communities can create feelings of loneliness, a sense of lacking purpose, and can impact our access to important emotional support resources.
Loneliness can present as withdrawing further from others, not seeming emotionally invested in tasks, diminished productivity, and overall physical and emotional stress.
The fatigue associated with continuing to adapt to new routines in the pandemic may cause some people to find that they are experiencing a lack of motivation at work, in developing personal interests, and in seeking connections with their community.
Demotivation can be seen through increased absences or lateness, procrastination, a lack of focus and interest with work and relationships with others, not undertaking new initiatives, and through an overall withdrawal from work or life goals.
How can we prevent or limit Pandemic Fatigue?
Check in with yourself, your employees, and others
The symptoms of Pandemic Fatigue can be recognized and addressed through creating a safe, productive, and inclusive environment. Start by checking in with yourself – and listening to others in your home or workplace to discover what accommodations can be made. This is also an opportunity to find out what tools, resources, or training you might now require to address the aspects of Pandemic Fatigue you or others are experiencing. Each workplace and home may require a different approach – but the simple act of communicating in and of itself can begin to relieve the ambiguity and anxiety associated with Pandemic Fatigue.
CFIB is continuously developing resources to bring awareness to mental health in the workplace on CFIB’s Wellness Hub. Take a moment to explore the information and tools available to help assist you and your employees in all aspects of mental health or call our Business Advising team for further direction and to share comments regarding resources you would like to see in the future.
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