We are now a year into social distancing, mask-wearing, staying home, and holding all of our meetings via Zoom. Despite our best efforts and best intentions, most of us are struggling with pandemic fatigue. We’re bored and have come to find ourselves doing the same things over and over without much joy. This wears on our sense of happiness and well-being. It may be time to step back and reassess how we spend our days.
Let’s start with examining the usual sources of well-being in our lives. Happiness and well-being tend to be connected to our natural human needs in several areas of our lives:
- Activities that provide some challenge or learning
- Physical activities and exercise
- Social support and relationships
- Activities that are fun and pleasurable
- Activities that provide personal expression and creativity
- Activities that give our lives meaning or purpose
If one or two of these things drop out, we can get by, but if many of these are reduced or eliminated, we become bored, despondent, and even depressed. Take a little time to evaluate your week and identify which areas are satisfied and which areas are missing.
Challenging or learning activities:
There are many possible activities that fall into this category. Have you read something challenging? Tried a new and complex recipe? Learned to play an instrument? Built something? Tried a new hobby?
What have you done in the past week that challenged you or led you to learn something new? The more the activity really absorbed your mind, the more helpful it is likely to be. What can you do next week to meet the need for mental challenge and learning?
Physical activities and exercise:
Stay-at-home recommendations and social distancing can make this more challenging, but it is still essential. If you live somewhere with more temperate weather, get outside, go for walks, jog, or ride a bike. Finding something to get you moving will help with your mental well-being. There are still activities you can do if your weather is cold, rainy, or snowy. You can join an online exercise class, go sledding, build a snowman, or even invest in a used treadmill or exercise bike.
Analyze what you’ve done in the past week to meet your need for physical activity. What can you do this coming week?
We also can’t forget about our basic self-care. Has your diet been healthy? Are you getting regular sleep? If not, take the time to reevaluate how you can better incorporate self-care and physical activity into your weekly routine.
Social support and relationships:
Social interaction is extremely influential to our mental health. Since the pandemic took away our holiday traditions, parties, and even coffee breaks at work, finding ways to maintain social support and relationships should be prioritized. Who have you talked with or spent time with in the past week? Has “Zoom fatigue” led you to spend less time engaging with others? Who have you talked with on the phone or had good text conversations with?
Think about how this need was met in the past week and what more you could do next week. Who could you call? Who could you invite on an outdoor walk with masks?
Find time for fun:
With many of us still working from home, it can be difficult to shut off when the day is done. However, boundaries are important, and making time for the activities that we find enjoyable will help our overall mental well-being.
What did you do this past week that was fun and enjoyable? Did you play any games? Watch a funny movie? What made you laugh? What could you do next week to meet this need?
Activities that provide personal expression and creativity:
This can encompass a wide array of activities, such as art, music, writing, woodworking, tying flies, needlework, sewing, baking, or even rearranging furniture. Find things to do that will exercise the creative side of your brain. What have you done in the past week that involved creativity? What can you do next week that involves creative expression?
Activities that give your life meaning or purpose:
Most often, people associate this with religious or spiritual activities. While religion is certainly a major source of meaning for many, people can also find meaning by getting involved in causes they’re committed to, like animal rights, environmentalism, helping the homeless, or helping children with schoolwork.
What have you done in the past week that met this need? What is a cause that's important to you, and how can you get involved? What might you do next week to meet this need?
The pandemic has certainly made it more difficult to maintain our sense of well-being. Many of our pre-pandemic activities have dropped off, and it takes more planning and effort to find substitute activities to meet our emotional and physical needs. Taking the time to plan alternatives and then following through with new activities can help our sense of peace and happiness during a challenging time.