Psychology expert shares five top tips for dealing with COVID-19 restriction fatigue

Dr Rachael Molitor

Dr Rachael Molitor

University news

Thursday 23 December 2021

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Understanding fact from fiction, sharing your feelings and getting outdoors are some of the top tips our psychology expert advises for tackling “Pandemic Fatigue” over the festive period.

Recent research has found that although adherence to the government’s re-introduction of measures to handle rising cases from the COVID-19 Omicron variant remains high, people are suffering with the echoes of the first lockdown in March 2020 so close to the festive holidays.

Dr Rachael Molitor, Lecturer in Psychology in the School of Psychological, Social and Behavioural Sciences, explains that “Pandemic Fatigue” or “Restriction Fatigue” is a feeling of tiredness and exhaustion.

She says it is the point where short-term measures and behaviour adaptations to the pandemic become longer term and longer lasting, without an end point in sight.

Discussions of reverberating rules and restrictions echoing back and forth can lead one to feel exhaustion, fatigue and anxiety for the future.

When the goal posts are moved and moved, the sprint becomes a marathon and the adherence to measures becomes more of longer lasting behaviour change, seeping into our new sense of normality.

Dr Rachael Molitor, Lecturer in Psychology in the School of Psychological, Social and Behavioural Sciences

Psychologists are discussing how best to cope with feelings of restriction fatigue and ways to adapt over the festive period.

Dr Molitor has used her expertise to create SOULS - five pieces of advice to help you try to keep mentally and physically well over the holiday season.

She shares them here:

  • Sharing is Caring - with the broken record of COVID still on repeat, it may feel difficult to talk about how you are feeling. It is so important however to not feel alone in your thoughts, and share your concerns and expectations, your worries and your fears with those around you. A problem shared is a problem halved is so true in this instance. At some point, others would have been through the same emotions, even going through it at this moment and the ability to talk to someone is so beneficial. Whether it be in person (if restrictions allow) or on the phone, a message or a Zoom call can sometimes help you share how you are feeling. Chances are, others are going through the same thing and would be grateful of someone to confide in.
  • Out and active - even with the newest rules in place regarding vaccine passports in certain establishments, at present everyone is still able to get out in the wintry fresh air and get their body moving. Much research highlights exercise as a benefit to society, releasing endorphins and helping to support a better mood and sense of wellbeing. Social exercise, such as a walk with friends or a socially distanced class at the gym, all support a person's positive sense of health and wellbeing.
  • Understand the Facts - as well as the unprecedented pandemic, we are also battling an infodemic between fact and fiction. The vast amount of information from numerous unregulated sources regarding messages and misconceptions, makes it a challenge to portray research-based information from the correct avenues and sources. Social media can often be a benefit to spread good news, connect with others and perfect our TikToks, but it can sometimes also create worry, anxiety and fear in the spreading of fake news and theories. Understanding the fact from the fiction, the scientifically backed data, and the peer reviewed published research regarding the pandemic is important to help create a sense of understanding.
  • Look to the future - although this may be one of the most difficult to manage, due to the current stricter guidance and restrictions regarding working from home if you can and mask wearing, we know these may not be forever. Planning small things that make you feel good, whether it be visiting family (if restrictions allow), planning a staycation, or taking up a hobby - planning something in small steps is a great way to support health and wellbeing by creating both short and long term goals. Think back to the days when the rules were first put in place and the uncertainty we felt - how we overcame these obstacles and seeing how far we have already come in society helps to show the path for the future.
  • Strength in Self Care - we all know the advice to fit our mask before helping others in case of emergency and in this pandemic we are no different. Helping and caring for yourself gives you the strength and the ability to care for others. During the cyclical restrictions and measures, many self-care patterns have diminished, either from the inability to get out to the hairdressers or spa, or the challenges faced financially or emotionally with self-care. Taking time for yourself is so extremely important and helps us to find our mental strength to deal with the current challenges we may face in the future. Finding coping strategies to reduce our ‘stress bucket’ helps to take on additional things that may have been too much to deal with. We currently do not know what the future holds, so finding our individual coping strategies will help to strength our resilience to challenges faced.

Find out more about studying psychology at Coventry University.