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Why so many people are feeling unusual mental and emotional fatigue during pandemic

Posted at 8:00 PM, Oct 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-15 22:55:10-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- If you are experiencing mental fatigue like never before, you are not alone.

Many people who are used to forging ahead in times of crisis, like this coronavirus pandemic, say the feeling is unfamiliar. Emily Chandler of Vista says she never could have imagined her kids would still be distance learning in the fall.

"This has been going on so long, and I'm just exhausted," Chandler says.

Her three sons are in three different schools and her oldest, Timmy, has autism. Helping them all with school means studying up on things herself.

Marriage and family therapist Serene Carruthers, of Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, says what Chandler is feeling is tied to the seemingly endless nature of the pandemic.

"It really is because our body is built to respond to stressful events typically that last for a duration of a short period of time," says Carruthers. "Some experts call it surge capacity. Like a battery our adaptive system can provide us with the mental, physical and emotional power to survive a short-term emergency. Then it needs to be recharged which is easier said than done during a pandemic because for many people, their self-care rituals have been upended or canceled."

"It is a very lonely time and I'm not getting that energy, that recharge," says Chandler.

Carruthers says not to underestimate the power of play, which is free and can be done anywhere. She also recommends shifting expectations, maintaining connections with loved ones, keeping a gratitude journal about the good in your life, and exercising even if it's just walking in your home.

Chandler says the reopening of her gym helped her feel like herself again, and she and Carruthers both say it's all right to ask for help, which Chandler says she's glad she did.

"I got on an anti-anxiety medication and I'm not embarrassed about that. It's really, really helped me," Chandler says.

What has also helped is her boys have been troopers, making it clear that sometimes the biggest challenge can also bring the greatest joy.