Tired of isolation? What to do about quarantine fatigue

Health & Wellness

June 29, 2020

Even as Indiana begins to reopen its doors, many residents remain skeptical and fearful of a virus that has taken the world by storm. If you chose to continue sheltering in place here is what you should know.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

You’ve been at home for three months – maybe four. You’ve faced a nonstop ritual of cooking and disinfecting. Add to that the fact that you have had limited socialization.

Maybe you are facing “quarantine fatigue,” but still you don’t want to venture too far from home for fear of contracting COVID-19. How can you cope?

Socializing while social distancing doesn’t always cure that fatigue. You want to be physically closer to family and friends – maybe even get a warm hug. Should you make it a goal to call or Face Time at least three people a day?

“I think there are lots of things you have to pay attention to when you are trying to engage with other people,” said Susie Bell, a certified worksite wellness manager with IU Health. “It’s not so much about the number of people you reach out to; it’s more about how meaningful it is. If you have had eight Zoom meetings in a day, the last thing you want to do is make another call after work,” said Bell. She has family members all around the country. Together, they watched “The Last Dance,” a documentary about Chicago Bulls’ standout Michael Jordan. They exchanged texts before and after an episode. The series gave the family a focus outside the realm of daily news.

“There is an overstimulation to constant influx of information,” said Bell. “People working from home or people who don’t have jobs should consider an office space where they can leave work and focus on other things,” she said. “Take a shower, put on clothing, and fix your hair. Go to ‘work’ and then when you leave that space, leave work,” said Bell.

Here are a few other tips to help cope with quarantine fatigue:

  • Try to get outside every day: Walk the dog or just sit outside in the sunshine.
  • Do something that gives your day purpose: Write a letter to a loved one, volunteer at a food bank, learn a new language or exercise routine.
  • Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms: “There’s a difference between self-care and self-soothing. While there is a place for things such as binge-watching TV, or overeating, I would suggest people ask themselves: ‘is this contributing to my long-term wellbeing,’” said Bell.
  • Acknowledge your feelings – from boredom to sadness: “My son is a senior baseball player and it was devastating to me that he wasn’t able to play. It’s hard to talk about when others are dying, but with self-compassion you are able to feel the way you want. Grief is grief,” said Bell, who is also a licensed clinical social worker.
  • Maintaining crisis mode: “It’s true that some people will continue to feel a constant anxiety over the state of world affairs and that has its own set of stress,” said Bell. “Fight or flight response protects us but when we are in chronic fight or flight mode it can lead to insomnia, heart disease, stomach issues and more. Determine your comfort level and stick with it. If you feel best wearing a mask in public, don’t second guess yourself and be sure to monitor those physical symptoms such as chest pain or upset stomach.”
  • Take a step back: “If you are overwhelmed, consider detaching from news and rediscover something you enjoyed when you were younger – feed the birds, pant a garden or read a book,” said Bell. And don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help, she adds.

IU Health offers behavioral health experts including psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, counselors, therapists and peer recovery coaches. Counseling services include addiction, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and post traumatic stress disorder.

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