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Making sense of pandemic fatigue

By:
Monika Sidhu

We’re only a month and a half away from the one year anniversary of when the Coronavirus was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

This means we’ve almost made it through a year of COVID-19. 

While many of us probably assumed that after a year of this pandemic, we would get used to the new routines and accommodate this new normal, this hasn’t necessarily been the case. 

In fact, as I continuously scroll through social media -- and I promise you, I’m always scrolling -- I’ve noticed a lot of people speaking up and asking their own variation of the following question: “Is anybody else feeling burnt out?”

Like any widely shared thoughts that I see being expressed by others on social media, I had to stop and think: were all these people living in my head?

Rather than jump to that conclusion, I decided to start keeping track of how many people were sharing this feeling, whether it be on social media or those who had shared the sentiment with me directly.

As it turns out, A LOT of people are feeling burnt out.


Among other new words and habits I picked up during this quarantine, I learned this feeling has a name: it’s called pandemic fatigue.

The World Health Organization described pandemic fatigue as “feeling demotivated about following recommended behaviours to protect themselves and others from the virus.”

Technically speaking, I suppose that definition makes sense.

However, it doesn’t feel fair to say this fatigue is only about being demotivated about following the recommended rules. 

Pandemic fatigue also feels like it should include feeling demotivated about everything throughout the remainder of this pandemic. I say “remainder” with a grain of salt because we still aren’t sure when this is going to end, which only adds to the existential dread.

So, we’re demotivated to follow regulations, demotivated to be social, demotivated to work… and just demotivated in general. 

Pandemic fatigue feels a lot more like not seeing the light at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel while continuing to follow the rules in place -- for those of us who actually still are.

While the internet is full of passive jokes about this collective lack of will to push forward, it is more than that, and is something we should all be concerned about.

Last month, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) released a report discussing the negative impacts of the pandemic on the mental health of Canadians. 

The report discussed how Canadians had growing feelings of despair and suicidal ideation. 

The CMHA national CEO, Margaret Eaton, expressed her fear in this report about people not seeing past the current difficulties that come with the pandemic.

“Cold weather, uncertainty, eroded social networks and restrictions on holiday gatherings are hitting at a time when people are already anxious, hopeless and fearful that things are going to get worse,” said Eaton. 

The report suggests that 10% of Canadians have expressed feelings of suicidal thoughts this past fall, which is up from 6% in the springtime.

Those numbers make it clear that getting used to the pandemic was never a matter of simply needing time to adjust. 


Personally, I knew that getting used to things in time was not going to be a reasonable request for myself. 

The first half of the pandemic for me was about trying to not catch COVID and trying to finish my graduate degree. 

However, this second half has caught me at a time that I’m working as a freelance writer who's looking for stability -- and of course, still trying to dodge COVID.

I am not that surprised by my own lack of motivation and feelings of despair during this time, because I don’t have the same pressure from school egging me on. 

However, this is a feeling that is prevalent for more people than just recent grads.

I took to my own Instagram to try to get a sense of how my friends were doing throughout this time. 

“It can’t just be me” I thought to myself.

I truly wanted to know if people felt this same pandemic fatigue and how they had learned to cope. 

Most of those who responded to me expressed definitely feeling the effects of the pandemic. The most common feeling was that every day just felt like the film Groundhog Day, where we are all just reliving the same day over and over and over again. 

Some had expressed a lack of motivation to work and some expressed that their work was the only thing helping push them forward. There were also those who have lost jobs or have had their businesses put on hold and still have no idea what the immediate future will look like. 

Of course, for those unsure about their employment situation comes the heaviness of financial uncertainty. 

All in all, I realized that this fatigue was by no means some niche feeling that came from some undiscovered corner of the Internet, nor was it something that was unrecognizable. Most people I’ve interacted with have felt pandemic fatigue, and can understand why it’s there. 

The report from CMHA also details the cold weather being a contributing factor to this collective exhaustion. 

While it’s not part of the WHO’s description of pandemic fatigue, there is no secret to those that live in cold climates that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real issue.

In fact, two people brought up weather to me when discussing why they feel they feel more down now than previously during the time of the pandemic. In conjunction with continuing to follow COVID-19 protocols, the miserable weather was something that was weighing on people’s minds. 

While there are many people who have yet to find solutions for this feeling of impending doom, a few people did share some of their tips for combatting pandemic fatigue: 

  1. Unplug: seeing as how our social communities are all online now, it’s as if we’re never turning that part of our lives off. Some express stepping away from social media as a quick detox from being overstimulated. 
  2. Stay active: whether it be an intense workout that leaves you dripping in sweat or even going on an innocent walk, activity seems to be a common method for keeping your mind distracted 
  3. Journaling: As a writer, the fact that I didn’t take to officially journaling until others mentioned it to me is something that I’m still trying to understand. However, journaling has been something that can help with creating a sense of purpose and honestly has helped me in making sense of my emotions that only seem to come out when it’s just me and a notebook. 

Those tips may work for you, and they might not. If this pandemic has taught me anything about mental health it is that everybody has varying experiences that require different forms of care.  For some, the best possible course of action might be to seek out mental health supports in their respective community.


Most importantly, it’s about continuing to be patient with ourselves and those around us. We may be nearing a year of pandemic protocols and lockdown but we’re also nearing a year in which we should better understand compassion and patience in trying times. 

To find local crisis resources and support in Canada, click here.

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About the author: Monika Sidhu is a freelance multimedia journalist based out of Brampton,ON. She loves covering all things arts and culture and enjoys telling untold stories coming out of her community. Monika recently graduated from Western University receiving a Master’s of Media in Journalism and Communication. In her off-time, you can find her discovering new music, spending time with her dogs or hiding the fact that she is binging reality tv shows.

5X Press is a forum for opinions, conversations, & experiences, powered by South Asian youth. The views expressed here are not representative of those of 5X Festival.

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