Managing Pandemic Fatigue


“Is this normal?” 

“Is anyone else experiencing this?”

“Is there any advice you can give me on how to manage?”

“I’m getting all this pressure to produce from above – I don’t see how I’m going to meet these expectations.”

“I am so tired. Exhausted.”

As coaches, it’s not our job to provide our clients answers, but rather to help them tap into their own wisdom and find the answers within themselves – an achievable challenge under normal circumstances; an even more difficult one in today’s pandemic impacted world.

While the novelty of the COVID-19 pandemic has dissipated to some extent, the world in which we now live is by no means normal. When the virus first appeared in the United States and rapidly took hold across the nation, most of us still held out hope that life would return to normal shortly thereafter. Now, as the pandemic continues to spread, none of us can say with any degree of certainty when or if things will return to life as we once knew it. In fact, for most, we’ll be faced with that often overused, but sadly accurate term, a “new normal”. And, just as sadly, many will find their new circumstances difficult to manage.

We know that the human brain desires control, and even more than control, we desire predictability. When we experience a disconnect between what we wanted or thought would happen and the actual reality around us, it’s a disruption, a change. As a result, we expend energy adapting and closing the disconnect between expectations and reality. In other words, we are far less productive and effective doing the things we intend to do; we’re instead simply going through the motions but not very well. This expenditure is both mentally and physically exhausting, especially considering the length of time in which we’ve been forced to operate in this manner. Six months of disruption equals a significant loss in time better well-spent.

The pandemic has been one disconnect after another, with disruption on a scale many of us have never experienced. So, while we’re now “used to” the pandemic – it’s not the shock it was at the beginning. Instead, we’re spending enormous amounts of energy adapting to the ongoing changes as it evolves over time — an experience I’ve dubbed chronic pandemic fatigue.

Regrettably, it’s an unfortunate trend among the leaders, teams, and organizations with whom we work. Recent research – see the links below for a more in-depth exploration into the topics –reveals that knowledge workers are more productive working from home. That said, we also now know people in general are working longer hours, not only blurring the lines between home and work but making it increasingly more difficult to turn work off and take time to renew and refresh.

So what to do about ? As a first step, understanding how we experience and respond to change helps provide a sense of normalcy. Most of our clients feel better knowing they are not alone in their exhaustion and sense of being overwhelmed. Secondly, practicing better boundaries between home and work gives much-needed space for self-care and doing things that renew us. And lastly, shifting our mindsets to allow for different standards and expectations around work is important. Check out this article from Medium for more information on how to combat this fatigue. We’re going to need all the energy we have to make it through this new normal.