Avoiding Mental Exhaustion During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Information overload becomes overwhelming when it feels like there is no escape. It’s too much when control seems lost. Overwhelm has been the case for many of my clients, particularly over here recently. Some clients have found no reprieve or shelter from the barrage of COVID-19 information coming from every direction and outlet. There simply is no shortage of info. News outlets, handouts and brochures, emails from nearly every vendor and organization, conversations of friends and family, everywhere they turn, clients are faced with the reality of ‘the virus.’ It is not uncommon to experience feelings of powerlessness, “There’s nothing I can do,” or “I’m trapped in this pandemic!” As a result, the uptick of phone sessions and requests for appointments to address anxiety, panic and depression has most recently been alarming to say the least.
Facts overcome fear. Reduce anxiety by staying tuned in to the most up-to-date information.
We all recognize it. We are living in an unprecedented time. However, for some, it was not until the “Safer at Home” order was declared that the ‘alarm’ went off. As a Clinical Psychologist in downtown Los Angeles, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been swift and disquieted. Navigating the stress of being able to survive and maintain basic and everyday living is a real concern for many. Empty shelves, angry patrons and overcrowded markets only lend to worry and even panic over food and supply shortages. It is in times like this where we must be mindful to take effort to guard against mental exhaustion. Typically the signs of mental exhaustion appear after having experienced stress over a long period of time or (in this case) jolts or constant stress for days. Though signs of mental exhaustion may vary by person and may creep up gradually, now is the time to be vigilant. If the stress continues to weigh heavy, there is certainly reason for concern. Mental exhaustion can cause emotional as well as physical symptoms. It is now even more important to know and recognize the signs that may indicate the path to burnout and/or mental exhaustion.
Tale-tell emotional signs of mental exhaustion may include:
· Low/no motivation
· Detachment, apathy, ‘not caring’
· Negative outlook/attitude, pessimism
· Excessive worrying
· Easily irritable
Tale-tell physical signs of mental exhaustion may include:
· Fatigue, unusually tired
· Insomnia (inability to sleep)
· Changes in appetite (increase or decrease)
· Upset stomach and body aches
· Weight gain or loss
· Increased illness (including cold or flu)
The mind is powerful. Knowing really is half of the battle. Merely recognizing the signs of mental exhaustion is helpful. When you notice the signs you should actively begin to address them. Awareness is in some cases the antidote. If you know about it, you can do something about it. At times, even a slight and positive change of mind and perspective is all that may be necessary.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with coronavirus and other concerns, hope is not lost. Here are a few low to no cost approaches to relieving mental exhaustion:
Dive into What You Love
Negative thoughts can take over when you don’t have the mental energy to guard against it. Now is a good time to revisit the things that you love to do but perhaps have gotten away from. You may want to consider keeping a journal, drawing or sketching, coloring or painting, reading a book or going for a brisk walk or drive.
Take a Load Off
Rest and relaxation are essential. It is recommended that we come as close as possible to 8 hours of sleep per night. Take a mental break by getting the necessary sleep each night. Be mindful of too much or too little. If needed, set a bedtime routine and adhere to it.
Make your best effort to be knowledgeable about the FACTS of coronavirus. The more you know the less you stress over unnecessary concerns. Further, it is not always possible to totally remove the things that stress us out. Nevertheless, we can take necessary breaks, delegate work and other responsibilities, and we can ask for help and assistance with everyday things that may temporarily lighten the load, i.e. cleaning, shopping, errands, babysitting, etc. A good movie can do wonders.
Exercise has been proven time and again to help with both mental and physical exhaustion. You don’t necessarily need to employ some high-intensity workout. Many people find even light activity and movement to be helpful in reducing stress and improving overall health. Again, a brisk walk on your lunch break may very well do the trick!
Nevertheless, if things do not seem to be improving, it is always good to check in with your doctor or other mental health professional about your symptoms and behaviors. Your doctor may be able to assist with more individualized ways to manage and work through the issues that you are challenges with.
Links & Resources at Your Fingertips
Here are a few online mental health resources and links that you may find helpful for mental exhaustion:
· Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
· Coronavirus Updates for the City of Los Angeles: Safer at Home
· National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Helpline:1-800-662 HELP (4357)
· NAMI Helpline:
Navigating A Mental Health Crisis: