You know that one of the symptoms of COVID-19 is fatigue. But that’s not what I’m referring to!
I’m talking about the fatigue that comes from self-isolating for weeks on end. All these little stresses could add up to making you exhausted.
Let me show you how to avoid COVID-19 quarantine fatigue!
First, if you want reliable information about COVID-19, stop with social media and popular press sites. Focus your efforts on the big health agencies. Sites like:
Now that you’ve got a reliable source for updates, stop scanning the popular press. Their intent is to get you to click so they can sell ads. Therefore, they are looking for the most inflammatory stories they can find.
Reading these stories and headlines will only increase your stress.
Limit your news. Stay home. This is going to end. You’re going to get through this.
My goal is to help you get through this with your energy stores intact. The last thing I want if for you to be dealing with debilitating adrenal fatigue by the end of the pandemic!
I’ll show you how to keep your energy stores intact. Even through a pandemic like COVD-19!
Adrenal fatigue: it’s not the stress you think
If you’ve followed my work for any time, you’ll know how strongly I advocate for identifying hidden stressors. It’s the hidden stresses that are almost always at the root cause of adrenal fatigue. Stresses like:
99% of the time, it’s one of those three hidden stressors that are causing adrenal fatigue. Rarely is it the stress caused by your relationships, finances, family drama, etc.
But in the case of COVID-19, the stress caused by this virus is real. It’s palpable. People are genuinely scared. Not only of the virus itself but of job loss and financial upheaval on a biblical scale.
The stress related to COVID-19, that’s known as perceived stress. The intensity of the perceived stress related to COVID-19 is more than enough to upset the metaphorical applecart. This stress can cause fatigue. You won’t even know it’s a problem until months after this ends…
Your adrenal glands during a COVID-19 outbreak
Your stress-response system, known in medical jargon as your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, is incredibly well adapted to deal with short-term stresses. Like encounters with a wild animal. Or, a fistfight. Or, a pesky cold virus.
These events, while stressful, are very brief. The stress lasts minutes, hours, or days. Not for weeks or months.
If we look to China as an example, then the COVID-19 outbreak will likely be lasting for – at least – a few months. This time period moves the stress into the chronic category. Chronic stress is the type of stress your adrenal glands struggle to cope with.
Combine a long timeframe with rather intense stress and you’ve got the perfect recipe for developing adrenal fatigue.
Why COVID-19 is the perfect storm for your adrenal glands
To be clear, when I say the perfect storm, I don’t mean perfect in a positive light. Perfect in the sense that it has the ideal 1-2 punch to knock out your adrenal function. Not from the illness itself but in your response to dealing with the changes in lifestyle amidst a pandemic.
Should that happen, you’re going to wonder why you don’t have the energy to get out of bed in the morning. Tasks that were mundane or easy might become exhausting. Everything is more challenging when you’re dealing with fatigue.
This fatigue will come on gradually. In all likelihood, you won’t notice it until well after the pandemic ends. This fatigue is not from the virus itself but instead a long-term response to the stress caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
To better understand COVID-19’s effect on fatigue, you need to understand two terms:
- Metabolic reserve
- Allostatic load
Metabolic reserve describes the capacity of your body to withstand repeated stress. It’s how much gas you’ve got left in your tank. Every stressor consumes some of your fuel. The leftover gas you’ve got, that’s your metabolic reserve.
The longer the COVID-19 outbreak lasts, the more metabolic reserve gets used up. Self-care practices like meditation, exercise, and healthy eating increase your metabolic reserve. There’s never been a more important time to focus on self-care practices!
Allostatic load is the quantity or load of stressors you’re dealing with. Allostatic load represents the totality of stressors in your life. The more stressors, the higher your allostatic load. The higher the intensity of the stressor, the higher the allostatic load. Your goal is always to keep the allostatic load as low as possible.
Allostatic load can push you towards adrenal fatigue in three different ways:
- Frequent stressful events that reduce your ability to adapt.
- A stress response that never ends.
- Inadequate or failure to respond to the stress.
In the context of COVID-19, you’re dealing with a stress response that never ends. For the time being, it’s one stressful day of social isolation after another. No one knows what your job will look like when this ends.
The unknown is so stressful.
How the COVID-19 pandemic systematically causes fatigue
None of you have ever lived through a pandemic. At least not one that has affected your daily life to this degree. Since this is your first rodeo, there’s no blueprint you can lean on as a resource. No one knows what to do or how to behave during these times.
COVID-19 is systematically taking out your support systems. Many of the mundane habits you employed have been disrupted. And it’s these habits that formed a foundation for your health. Without them, fatigue is probable.
These habits are what kept your metabolic reserve at healthy levels. Without them, you’re vulnerable to developing fatigue. To ensure COVID-19 doesn’t cause fatigue in you and yours, you need to fight back. Below, I list the ways the current pandemic is breaking down your fatigue-fighting foundations.
The foundation of your stress-response system
In this section, I give you an overview of the 6 different pillars that make up your health. When these pillars start to crumble, you erode your body’s capacity to deal with stress and illness. The coronavirus pandemic has likely already affected a number of these pillars.
1. Diet and nutrition
I’m sure this was the first to go for many of you. Forget healthy eating, it’s time for comfort food. Bring on the potato chips and ice-cream!
If binging on comfort food is done once and a while it’s no big deal. Comfort foods can actually help to decrease stress hormones. This becomes problematic once it becomes your normal.
Processed and prepackaged foods provide little in the way of nutrition. They lack the vitamins and minerals your body needs to stand up to a virus like COVID-19.
If your diet moves towards one of comfort and convenience, you erode the first foundational pillar of your metabolic reserve. Don’t let this happen to you! Keep your eating on point. Opt for whole foods whenever possible!
Around the world, public gyms and fitness facilities were forced to close their doors. This displaced millions of people from their regular workout regimes. Quarantines and/or house arrest stopped people from walking around their neighborhoods. If FitBit had global tracking ability, I’m confident you’d see a massive decline in movement around the world.
COVID-19 has put an abrupt stop to nearly all exercise and movement regimes. Eustress or positive stresses like exercise and/or movement actually have a positive effect on your body’s ability to handle other stressors – like a viral infection.
It’s up to you to craft an at-home movement regime. You don’t need exercise equipment. Remember, this is about movement more than exercise. The goal is to spend less time sitting and more time standing, moving, or exercising. Fitness trackers can help you do just that!
Multiple studies have found that a lack of movement increases your risk of dying. (1, 2) Sitting really is the new smoking. So, get off your tush and move as much as you can during this pandemic! Doing so will help prevent fatigue once this ends!
3. Sleep and light exposure
Habits and routines in your waking life result in habits and routines in your sleeping life. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m confident there is no shortage of late-night binge-watching. Combine that with a near-complete alteration to your routines, and you’ve suddenly got an irregular sleep schedule.
Your body has adapted to the natural light-dark cycle found in nature. In a perfect world, you would sleep when it’s dark out and be awake while the sun is out. Obviously, that’s not possible throughout the year – especially if you live towards the end of either pole.
During this pandemic, my recommendation is to keep a routine for your sleep. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. many of your body’s hormones follow the rhythm of the sun. Keep your stress hormones happy by aligning your sleep-wake cycle with the sun as best you can!
4. Stress management
I don’t know what it is about stress, but whenever times get tough, it’s the stress management practices that go out the window! In times like this, you should be focusing on your meditation practice.
Take a bath. Read a book. Do whatever practice(s) help alleviate stress in your body. Do them regularly. Schedule them into your day. These need to be done on the regular – not when you feel like it!
5. Environmental exposures
This refers to all everything you’re exposed to on a regular basis. From the estrogens in your personal care products to the prescription and recreational drugs you use. The totality of environmental exposures is what affects your body’s ability to deal with additional stresses like COVID-19.
During the pandemic, I recommend limiting your exposure to small toxins as best as you can. Drink filtered water. Brush your teeth regularly. Get outside and breathe the fresh air.
Each of these practices probably seems trivial. But when added together over a long period of time, they make a profound difference.
6. Community and purpose
I feel that this pillar is the one COVID-19 is affecting the most. Social distancing eats away at your social relationships. Suddenly all your friends are potential virus carriers. Stay away!
Combine that with a decreased sense of meaning and purpose in your life. The job you loved; the one that brought meaning and purpose to your life; you might not be able to do it during the pandemic.
A sense of purpose also brings with it a hopeful or optimistic outlook. Your mindset influences your fatigue. If you feel yourself shifting towards despair and hopelessness, concerted effort in the opposite direction is needed. Stat!
How to prevent COVID-19 fatigue
Ok, now you know how COVID-19 causes fatigue. It’s not just the virus itself – which is very dangerous – but the way in which this virus has interrupted and interfered with the foundations of your health. To ensure you don’t experience fatigue once this ends, you need to craft a new set of habits and routines.
COVID-19 fatigue fighting tip #1: Eat real food
Does your food rot?
If not, it’s not all that great for you. All those canned veggies you bought… yeah, they’re not so dense on the nutrients. Get the fresh stuff. The stuff that rots. That’s where fatigue-fighting vitamins and minerals are located!
You don’t have to be ultra-strict with this. Stick with it 80% of the time. Enjoy your chips, ice-cream, or libation of choice on the weekends. Just don’t make it a nightly ritual!
COVID-19 fatigue fighting tip #2: Move your body
Movement is more important than exercise. Get outside for a walk every day. Stand up from your desk on the hour.
You don’t need to have a home gym. This is about moving your body more than it is about exercising. Exercise is great. But movement is what you need to be focusing on.
COVID-19 fatigue fighting tip #3: Set a sleep schedule
If you’re not working, set a schedule. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Stay up late and sleep in on the weekends. Set your schedule as though the world was normal.
Expose your eyes and skin to as much sunlight as you can upon waking. Do this again on your afternoon walk. After dinner, keep your exposure to all forms of light to a minimum. This includes blocking the blue light from your electronics!
COVID-19 fatigue fighting tip #4: Practice one form of self-care every day
Start a gratitude journal. Download an app like Headspace or Stop, Breathe, & Think and learn how to meditate. Take a candle-lit bath. Read a book by your favorite author. Binge-watch your favorite series.
Do something just for you each and every day.
COVID-19 fatigue fighting tip #5: Connect with humans you love
Of course, this is going to look different than it has in the past. Face-to-face visits are on the back-burner for the next few months. In their absence, start leveraging technology to your advantage.
FaceTime, Skype, Messenger, and WhatsApp all offer free video calls. During a pandemic, video calls are the next best thing to in-person visits. Now is the perfect time to rekindle old friendships.
Get on your phones and start connecting!
COVID-19 fatigue fighting tip #6: Make a plan
By crafting structure in your day, you remove the stress of finding something to do. Before going to bed at night, craft a plan for the following day. A simple to-do list with 3+ items is all that you need.
These days, your to-do list might look like cleaning your baseboards (again!). Or, the reorganization of a closet. Regardless, having things to do sets the mind at ease. You’ll feel better with a list, I promise.
Once you’ve got a list of tasks, set a longer-term goal or two. Perhaps more apt than goals is the word projects. Take an online course on something you’ve been meaning to learn. Websites like Udemy and Lynda offer courses on just about everything. Learn how to knit, become a better photographer, start an indoor garden. The possibilities are endless.
Now is your perfect opportunity to learn something new. Practicing your new skill will fill an hour or two of your schedule every day. Putting your mind to work on a new project will help ease your stress.
Plus, once this ends, you’ll be proficient at something new. That’s something to feel good about. I promise you won’t want to look back on this and only have a long list of shows you crushed as evidence of your existence over the last 3 months.
Now, I want to hear from you!
What strategies are you using to stay sane during the COVID-19 outbreak?!
Leave your answers in the comments section below!