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Lockdown Fatigue: Why we’re all running on empty

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Living through a global health pandemic takes its toll on our bodies. Not only do we have a higher risk of physical illness, but our mental health is also taking a huge hit.

You might feel like everyone else is “making the most” of lockdown – learning new skills, completing home workouts, redecorating their homes and gardens – but in reality, we’re all struggling in our own ways.

If you’re feeling constantly tired, unmotivated and emotionally drained you are not alone. 

For nearly a whole year now we have been experiencing a rollercoaster of feelings and living under circumstances we never could have imagined 12 months ago. Is it really any surprise that we’re feeling more physically and emotionally exhausted than usual? Not to scientists! In fact, we’re all experiencing what medical experts are now referring to as ‘Lockdown Fatigue’.

Dr Sarita Robinson, principal lecturer in Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire explains that “one of the key reasons why being under lockdown during a health pandemic is draining is because we’re experiencing a lot of mental strain. We expect to feel tired when we have been on a run or have completed an exercise class. However, high levels of mental effort and increased anxiety can also make us tired too.” 

“This is because when we face psychological stressors, our bodies still mount a physiological response – we can enter fight or flight mode – and this takes up energy. So our heart rate increases and we start to feel more alert and energised. However, keeping the body in this high state of alert really takes its toll on our energy levels.”

This is why we feel tired when we are facing financial or health concerns. It also happens when we have to adapt to an unfamiliar way of doing things, such as life under lockdown. “We are having to work out new ways of doing pretty much everything from entertaining the kids, remote working to socialising with friends,” Robinson says.

“The monotony and boredom associated with being quarantined can simply be tiring when a lack of stimulation and structure means that you drift into a state of apathy” explains Dr Jilly Gibson Miller, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Sheffield. “Although this is a totally normal response to such a threatening situation, these conditions have a huge impact on body and mind – people’s ability to concentrate, their motivation and energy levels.”

So there you have it, the science behind lockdown fatigue. Remind yourself next time you are feeling particularly tired or unproductive that you are experiencing a completely ordinary reaction to an extraordinary situation.

Click here to read more on Lockdown Fatigue.