What is lockdown fatigue and aside from self-care what do we need to be doing that helps with the root cause of this newly coined 2020 phenomenon?
I felt called to write about the topic of lockdown fatigue as this week alone I’ve had five messages from dear friends who have told me ‘I’m over it’, ‘I’m so tired of this shit’, ‘I’m feeling so flat, deflated, weary and struggling to find motivation’ etc.
They are not alone, lockdown fatigue has become a widespread phenomenon, as people grapple with the restrictions in place to ‘fight’ this virus and deal with circumstances that are completely different from anything they’ve known before.
Lockdown fatigue is presenting as; feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, depression, anxiety and irritability; chronic stress leading to physical tiredness, exhaustion and burnout. It affects decision making and behavioural changes such as non-compliance with public health measures and heightens a sense of spiritual disconnection.
Reasons given for lockdown fatigue
According to the majority of authors I’ve read on the topic so far, the reason for us experiencing lockdown fatigue seems to be a fault in our ability to cope with uncertainty.
Every day in the media we hear about rising levels of anxiety in the community due to concern about our health, our vulnerable loved ones and our livelihoods, jobs and financial security. We are living in extremely uncertain times and we’re creatures who don’t cope well with that….or so we’re being led to think.
We are being told consistently that our lockdown fatigue symptoms are on us and our faulty design and that if we just did things like get more sleep, eat a healthy diet, do more physical exercise and have a daily routine we can ride this through like a trooper.
Take a moment to question
In the beginning, this is what I believed too. I still maintain that all of these things will absolutely help you to feel better but I no longer believe that we are at fault for feeling the way we are feeling.
Just take a moment to think about this……If everyone, literally everyone I know is struggling right now with some aspect of physical, mental or spiritual health related to the events of this year don’t you agree that this is about something bigger than our individual daily habits?
I want to interrupt the dialogue about self-care and healthy daily habits for a moment to just acknowledge the scale of disruption we are dealing with. What has been asked of us this year is massive and what I invite you to feel in this moment is compassion for yourself and others.
We need to stop the incessant ‘doing’ even if it’s doing all the ‘right’ and healthy things and just be with the enormity of our situation for a moment.
2020 has asked that we slow down, but have we?
Many, I would argue, have amped up their concerns, their worries, their heart rates, respiration rates and blood pressure rather than accepting the opportunity to be still and lean into the current situation.
Searching for the truth
The real reason for Lockdown fatigue in my mind is the slow, creeping feeling in the pit of our guts that what is happening, what is being forced upon us goes against the very nature of what it means to be human.
On some level as a collective we know. We may not be conscious of this. Instead we are responding with depression, anxiety, overwhelm, fatigue, loss of self-identity, loss of direction, hope and optimism and believing it’s our individual malfunction. I argue that it’s bigger than that. This way of living isn’t for us.
As humans we are inherently tribal beings. We are meant to live in communities where our individual gifts and skills help the community to function as a whole. We are supposed to feel like a piece of the puzzle, one that is individually shaped but fits in perfectly with the others.
We’ve forgotten this. It’s been so long since we lived this way that we think we are entirely capable of ‘doing and having it all’. A fallacy, as illusory as the idea of being in control. We were never in control. We are here to respond to our environment and live in synch with it, not to fool ourselves we can control it.
We are also far more equipped to deal with uncertainty that we realise. Our ancestors didn’t have certainty or control over their environments. They lived intertwined with nature and we know that nature is not always predictable and definitely not always the same. This is part of what creates beauty in our surroundings and keeps us from boredom.
Ironically, it’s the certainty of days in lockdown that are contributing to fatigue. People are bored of the sameness of each day. If lack of certainty were our true problem, we’d be happy and peaceful in a situation where we look at the same four walls, day in day out but that isn’t the case.
We are missing the mark
This year we are being shown how far we’ve strayed from our natural state and how out of alignment we are. The pain, the depression, the anxiety and overwhelm is not who we are, it’s a symptom and a wake-up call to tell us – this is not working.
Isolation, over sanitisation, more chemicals, more drugs, covering our faces, the most expressive and emotionally accessible parts of our bodies. These things are hurting us, decreasing our natural immunity along with our spirits.
Locking away our most vulnerable and treasured elders, thinking we are protecting them from germs comes at the expense of exposing them to loneliness, a far greater killer than any virus. It’s breaking our spirits too because it’s so internally conflicting with what we know deep down.
Our bodies know the truth, our inner wisdom is grappling with the distant memory of how things should be while facing the daily challenge of how things are for us right now. This is not cognitive dissonance, it’s mind-body-spirit dissonance.
Governments are sending the message that mental health is a rising issue and allocating more money (debt) to funding services that tell more individuals that they have a problem (diagnosis) and there is a treatment available (usually medication). It misses the root cause.
Our society is sick and our planet is sick and lockdown fatigue might just be the slow, dawning realisation of this.
So, what do we do about it?
The first thing to do is acknowledge your feelings and remove all judgement. This is much harder than it sounds because we are so used to slapping a judgment on our feelings that it happens unconsciously. See if you can sit quietly with yourself and allow the feelings to emerge. You may like to say hello to them by labelling (sadness, grief, anger, frustration, confusion etc) but the key is not to judge them as bad or assume there is something wrong with you for feeling what you are feeling.
Three helpful ways to practice this include journaling for the writers, meditation for those who can willingly sit still or discussion for those who gain clarity as they talk out their concerns,
We need to rebuild real connection. If technology were enough for us to fuel the need for human connection we would be doing a lot better than we are doing right now. It’s a clear cut experiment in my mind. It helps, but isn’t an adequate substitute for having real conversations with one another where we can see one others faces and respond to verbal and non-verbal cues.
Make sure you are talking to people outside in the fresh air, over the fence, ask the courier how their day is going and check in with distant friends and family over video call.
If what I’ve talked about so far rings true and you want to feel more empowered it’s time to turn off mainstream media and learn from experts about the aspects you are most interested in. If it’s health, learn about how viruses work (which by the way are all around us all of the time, in our water, soil, air and our bodies and are a natural part of the ecosystem).
You might be interested in economics, politics, food systems, alternative and healthy farming, industrialisation, history, anthropology (how different indigenous cultures have lived), how traditional cultures relate to their environment, spirituality, the body and healing, the immune system.
There are so many opportunities to take a small part of this global problem and learn something new to help you feel empowered in the situation. But it won’t come from the passive consumption of mainstream news channels that predominantly pump out fear based stories (and they are just stories) that only heighten anxiety.
With education comes informed action as opposed to fearful and impulsive re-action. You’ve acknowledged that things aren’t working and we need to change the way we are living and dealing with the situation. Perhaps you’ve talked about your feelings with others and now educated yourself about something that’s not sitting right for you.
Allow this to evolve into actions that now serve you, your family and community. Become a conscious consumer by choosing to buy local and ethically produced, reduce your household waste, source organic food for your family, add herbs and spices to your meals to boost immunity, take a meditation class, get involved in a community garden project or swap produce with a neighbour.
For the first eighteen years of my life, our neighbour who grew vegetables for the local grocer would bring us a box of produce on a Friday evening and we’d send him home with a fresh loaf of bread and a cake. This elderly neighbour also lived on his own after being widowed and he wouldn’t just drop off the box but stay and watch the football around the fire with us. It’s one of the most beautiful memories from my childhood.
If you are feeling fatigued from Lockdown know that you are not broken or flawed in any way. It’s a completely normal response to a completely abnormal situation. Our needs as humans have been severely restricted and the conflict at the core level of our being is real and uncomfortable.
Finally, it’s not overly helpful to harbour blame, towards yourself, others and even systems. To bring yourself out of the apathy and exhaustion of lockdown fatigue, learn to be with your truth. Connect and share that with others. Trust your gut. Learn about the parts of this situation that peak your interest and then take action in new and different ways that feel aligned to your needs. Own your value and contribution as a part of this whole ecosystem that we call life.