Yes, pandemic fatigue is real, and there are many ways to combat it

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 30) - The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reminded all nations to stay vigilant and "not give up" in protecting themselves from COVID-19 after many have been reporting an increase in the number of people experiencing pandemic fatigue.

“It takes a mental and physical toll on everyone,” said WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus in a recent media briefing.

“Working from home, children being schooled remotely, not being able to celebrate milestones with friends and family or not being there to mourn loved ones – it’s tough and the fatigue is real,” he declared. “But we cannot give up.”

Filipina psychologist and life coach Riyan Portuguez said the pandemic fatigue is caused by the mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion due to the long exposure to a distressing event like the ongoing global health crisis.

The WHO said that pandemic fatigue had led people to feel demotivated to follow recommendations in order to prevent catching the virus.

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“Yung sa emotional and physical exhaustion, yung iba meron nararanasan na poor concentration...Minsan nararamdaman nila yung more than stressed out sila,” said Portugez in an interview with CNN Philippines.

[Translation: When it comes to emotional and physical exhaustion, some are experiencing poor concentration...They feel that they are more than stressed out.]

How to combat pandemic fatigue?

Recognize emotions. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking toll on everyone’s mental health, Portuguez said that people should recognize their emotions in order to find ways to approach their problem.

“As much as possible, nire-recognize natin ang ating mga emotions, thoughts natin para maintindihan kung paano natin ma-approach yung mga problema natin,” she said.

[Translation: As much as possible, we recognize our emotions and thoughts so we can understand how we are going to approach our problem.]

Learn to say “no.” Portuguez also recommended to know one’s limit to avoid exhaustion.

“I-honor din natin yung boundaries natin. Alamin natin kung ito ay nakakatulong sa atin o talagang sumosobra na,” she pointed out. “Minsan nao-overwhelm tayo sa mga task na meron tayo, kaya dapat matutunan natin kung paano magsabi ng ‘no.’”

[Translation: We should also honor our boundaries. We should recognize if it is helping us or we are going overboard. Because we get overwhelmed with our tasks, that's why we should learn to say “no.”]

Look for alternative self-care activities. While the pandemic is ongoing, it’s normal for people to run out of self-care activities or hobbies to cope with the stress. Portuguez said there are many activities that can be explored.

“Matagal na tayong naka-lockdown, yung mga self-care activities ay nauubos na..." she said. "Kaya nga yung iba nawawalan ng hope.”

[Translation: We have been under lockdown for a long time, so our self-care activities are running out...That’s why some are losing hope.]

“Kailangan natin maghanap ng alternative ways na maaring makatulong sa inyo, kasi baka hindi pa natin totally nae-explore,” she added.

[Translation: We need to look for alternative ways that could help you, because we might not have yet explored them.]

READ: 5 natural ways to boost your mental health during stressful times

Get in touch with loved ones. Despite the pandemic, the psychologist said that people should find ways to get connected with their loved ones.

“Wag nating kalimutan na magkaroon ng social and emotional connection sa mga loved ones natin, dahil malaking tulong siya para mag-improve ang well-being natin,” she said.

[Translation: We should not forget to have social and emotional connection with our loved ones, because that could help improve our well-being.]

Seek help from mental health professionals. The National Center for Mental Health offers a 24/7 crisis hotline to listen to mental health concerns amid the pandemic. You may contact them through 0917-899-USAP (8727) or (02) 7-989-USAP (8727).

Public concern

Portuguez mentioned that mental health is a public concern, thus, it also requires efforts from both the local and national government.

“Kahit anong pagbibigay namin ng self-care activities and tips sa mga mamamayang Pilipino, kung habang tumatagal po yung araw na tayo ay naka-lockdown, hindi masosolusyunan ang pag-improve ng well-being natin,” she elaborated. “Ito po ay kailangang tugunan at bigyan ng increased efforts ng local government units at national government.”

[Translation: No matter what self-care activities and tips that we give to our fellow Filipinos, if the days we are under lockdown are prolonged, it will not be enough to improve our well-being. This needs to be addressed by our local government units and the national government.]

The Department of Health has only allotted ₱615-million for the national mental health program for 2021. This means that the budget for every Filipino under the program is only at almost ₱6.

Portuguez called for an increased funding for the government’s mental health program.

“Hindi po ito pang-indibidwal lamang, pang malakawan po siya," she emphasized. "Problema po siya sa bansa natin.”

[Translation: This is not just an individual concern, it involves everyone. This is a national problem.]