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Mental Exhaustion and COVID-19

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With the COVID-19 pandemic a year old now, a growing number of people have been experiencing mental exhaustion or mental fatigue.

Mental fatigue can happen to anyone experiencing long-term stress. A continuous pandemic that limits social interaction and everyday life can make a person feel overwhelmed and mentally drained. Have you noticed that you feel less connected? More easily distracted? Less motivated or no energy? These are signs of mental exhaustion.

With the start of vaccine delivery, the hope of the pandemic coming to an end is in sight! But that doesn’t mean the mental toll that has happened in the past year will immediately disappear. It is essential to take the next few months to care for our mental health as we work on kicking COVID-19. Here is a list of simple steps that you can do anytime and anywhere to help with mental exhaustion:

  1. Sleep – Prioritize sleep. Make sure that you can get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. It seems childish but having a bedtime and routine is the best way to get regular and restful sleep. Try to make your routine something simple, like taking a warm bath or drinking a cup of warm tea before bed. It should be easy to stick with!
  2. Take a break from electronics – Electronics emit blue light that tricks the brain into thinking it is still daylight out, and this can interrupt sleep. Electronics can also be a “time suck,” and we find ourselves mindless scrolling for hours with no purpose. Take this time to explore a new hobby; you might be surprised what you discover.
  3. Eat nutrient-dense food – This is one that I usually get a lot of reaction on but hear me out! I’m not trying to turn you into a bunny. When we are under a lot of stress, our body releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone activates the pancreas, which releases insulin, a hormone that controls the amount of sugar in your bloodstream. This, over time, makes us crave “comfort foods,” like sweets and fatty foods. Remember, you don’t have to cut out all comfort food, but we want to make sure that we are also getting in other nutrient-dense foods. Increase fruits and vegetables but also lean meats and grains.
  4. Move your body – Exercise is the best medicine for stress. With that being said, a little bit of exercise is better than no exercise. The type of exercise also doesn’t matter – It’s all about moving our body. I tell my patients to start small, five to 10 minutes, and slowly increase over time. It could be as simple as going for a walk down the street or some simple stretches in the living room. Other ways to move your body is with “accidental” exercise, like parking farther[MD2] in the parking lot or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. All exercise is helpful, not just running a marathon.
  5. Self-care is necessary – It can seem that self-care is lavish or selfish. It can also be put on the back burner because we don’t have the time or money to do what we want to do to care for ourselves. Self-care is about doing things that make you feel refreshed and replenished. Take this time to create a list of things that help you feel relaxed. I like to have things that are plusher and a few quick and easy things. I love massages, but I can’t do that every day, so I usually schedule a massage a couple of times a year. Exercise helps decrease my stress level and is something I try to get in daily. Other ideas can be meditation, reading, puzzles, cooking, talking with a friend or traveling.

Remember that taking care of yourself is taking care of others in our lives. It doesn’t have to be hours a day but here and there throughout the day can do wonders for your mental health.

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