National Mental Health Commission officials have encouraged Australians to be aware of the signs of ‘pandemic fatigue’ so they can support the wellbeing of themselves and others.
The message has come amid lockdowns in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory, following a string of COVID-19 outbreaks.
While it is ‘absolutely understandable’ that many Australians may be experiencing pandemic fatigue, it’s important for them to realise they can overcome it, according to commission CEO Christine Morgan.
“We put 2020 behind us and envisaged 2021 as being a fresh start. We found the courage to support ourselves, our loved ones and our communities through many hardships last year, but it’s a bit different this time as many of us are running close to empty emotionally and mentally,” she said.
Signs of pandemic fatigue include irritability, anxiety, low energy, restlessness, feelings of hopelessness and dread, or feeling like there is nothing to look forward to, Morgan noted. She said behaviours to watch out for include withdrawal from others, difficulty sleeping, lack of motivation, and increased use of alcohol or other substances.
Ways to combat pandemic fatigue, according to the commission, include:
- Identifying and practicing self-care strategies,
- Exercising regularly,
- Only consuming news from trusted sources, and taking a break from it when needed,
- Doing things that have been saved ‘for a rainy day’, such as reading a book, gardening, being creative, and fixing things.
The commission also recommended reaching out to people who may be on their own. In regard to children who may be experiencing fatigue, the commission said letting them know that it’s okay not to feel okay, and talking to them about how they are feeling and how to overcome those feelings can help.
Commission chair Lucy Brogden has called on Australians to stay connected with each other, be kind, and encourage people to seek professional support when they need it.
“Never underestimate your ability to have a positive impact on someone’s life. Others might see you prioritising your mental health and decide to do the same for themselves. Others might see you reach out to a friend experiencing pandemic fatigue, and do the same for someone they know,” she said.
“For those who already live with mental ill health, there may be the need for more support from loved ones, the community and from professional services. It is not only OK to seek support, but essential.”