Coping with Lockdown Fatigue

by Aaron Ironside 

If you had asked me a year ago if I would like to spend a month at home with my family I would have screamed:
“Yes—stay-cation!” And yet, on the other side of lockdown, many of us feel like we need a holiday—even though we may have just spent several weeks not working. This is because enduring prolonged levels of anxiety over lockdown wore us down.

We started lockdown feeling optimistic and sensing the support of our community, but the persistent stress of the unseen threat takes its toll. In fact, feeling emotionally and physically drained is a normal response to a very abnormal experience. The pandemic and Level 4 Lockdown are things none of us have experienced before, so the brain doesn’t have data from past experiences that it can draw on to cope with this situation. Uncertainty is a major trigger of stress that can boil over into clinically significant levels of anxiety. When the body’s fight-or-flight response kicks in, it triggers physical reactions. Our body starts reacting as if the perceived threat is present. If that pressure stays long enough, these reactions can cause significant physical wear-and-tear on the body and the mind. Adrenaline uses up valuable coping energy and we can find ourselves running on empty. Then, at the end of several months of worrying about our health, the economy and the future, we are told it is time to resume our lives.
Simple right?
Life as normal.
Yeah, right!

Now our depleted bodies and souls are struggling with ordinary life, work and expectations. Instead of looking forward to seeing friends and family, many of us wanted to go back to lockdown. We needed a holiday.
Without taking the time to replenish the lost energy, even normal life can feel overwhelming.
Remember: You have survived a Global Pandemic—you are a survivor!


What to Do to Recover from Lockdown

    1. Notice when you are getting triggered.
This might come in physical ways, like feeling hot and sweaty, your face getting flushed, breathing becoming shallower, or your heart beating faster. You may feel a rush of anxiety, or your thoughts may speed up. You may be stuck in a fearful way of thinking and unable to see a different perspective. You may feel panicky and want to flee.

     2. Focus on your senses or your breathing.
Once you notice that you are triggered, the next thing is to stop what you are doing, take a break, and focus on taking charge of your body. Self-awareness must lead to self-regulation. The best way to calm down is to slow down and deepen your breathing. This activates your parasympathetic nervous system to put the brakes on fight or flight, and the whole body starts to calm down.‚Äč

    3. Reach out to a friend or family member.
Feeling anxious can be contagious, but so is feeling calm. Who do you know whose calm and loving presence will help fill your tank? When we are with those we love, we produce a hormone called oxytocin, which acts as a de-stressor to the body.

Our church community is an expression of family and meeting together can help fill the tank. As we recover, we may feel less able to serve in the ways we normally would, so we can let others know how much is in the tank for ministry activities. Pastors and leaders may be especially low after the experience of coping with the demands of online church services during the lockdown. So whether we are in leadership or part of the church family, let’s prioritise connecting and re-filling for the next season of life in the church and at home.
(NB: Cuddling with a beloved pet can also create oxytocin!)


Aaron Ironside

Aaron  has over 3000 hours of counselling experience, drawing on his Master's Degree in Psychology and his training with Living Wisdom and Strength to Strength.