Updated: May 3
By Beth Davalos MSW, LCSW-S, RPT-S
The Covid 19 Pandemic has been a difficult experience for everyone; however, it has had a disproportionate impact on older adults. According to Joyce DeMonnin, a spokesperson for AARP, the impact of the pandemic is 10 to 20 times worse for seniors living alone. Although many seniors have adjusted their daily lives to living with the Coronavirus, many are still feeling more anxious and depressed. This problem is called “Pandemic Fatigue.”
WHAT IS “PANDEMIC FATIGUE” IN SENIORS?
“Pandemic Fatigue” is a condition involving the emotional struggle in coping with a major world event such as Covid 19. Seniors with “Pandemic Fatigue” often experience increased anxiety, hopelessness, anger, fatigue, boredom, and difficulty maintaining emotional stability. Some signs and Symptoms of “Pandemic Fatigue” may include:
Lack of Motivation- becoming less diligent about social distancing, wearing a mask, or washing your hands.
Increased Irritability and Impatience- becoming easily agitated with tasks or situations typically managed.
Low Mood- not feeling engaged in things usually found enjoyable.
Depression- feelings of helplessness and hopelessness about the future.
Disruption in Sleep Patterns- difficulty sleeping or needing excessive amounts of sleep.
Changes in Appetite- overeating or undereating.
Decreased Energy-feeling rundown.
Decreased Attention Span- difficulty focusing or concentrating.
Learn more about how Seniors facing “Pandemic Fatigue” can benefit from Elderly Counseling Services!
HOW DO SENIORS COPE WITH “PANDEMIC FATIGUE”?
As “Pandemic Fatigue” takes its toll on our seniors, it is necessary to equip them with coping skills to combat the debilitating emotional and physical effects of this condition. Focusing on healthy self-care strategies will help seniors combat the aftermath of the pandemic. These strategies include reflection, meditation and breathing, monitoring exposure to news and social media, restoration and replenishment of energy, increased physical activity, and seeking senior counseling.
The Covid 19 Pandemic has brought loss, grief and suffering for many. However, it has also brought gratitude, meaning, and new insights. The pandemic has revealed the amazing resilience of the human spirit as we have pondered on what truly matters, let go of trivial activities, and paid more attention to the things we might have previously overlooked in our busy lives. Seniors can learn to identify ways to cope with “Pandemic Fatigue” by setting daily realistic goals, managing overall expectations, and focusing on strengths and accomplishments. When daily plans are disrupted, seniors can contemplate on what they learned and how they can build on those lessons. This can be accomplished by reflecting on what resources they have and using those resources to set realistic goals.
2. Meditation and Breathing
Counselors can help seniors struggling with “Pandemic Fatigue” by reducing stress and anxiety with meditation and breathing exercises. This simple self-care strategy can be accomplished by setting aside a specific time each day for meditation in order to establish a routine and become comfortable with the practice. Even 3 minutes a day can make a considerable difference! Mindful breathing is a basic form of mediation that focuses on the breath. In this meditative practice, the physical sensation of breathing is established as an anchor to the present moment. While practicing mindful breathing, you may find yourself caught up in thoughts, emotions, and sounds—wherever your mind goes, you simply come back again to the next breath. Even if you only come back one time, that is okay. The goal is pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. When you notice judgments arise during your meditation process, you can make a mental note of them and let them pass as you bring your thoughts back to the next breath. Over time, mindful breathing will help you better manage your thoughts, emotions, and reactions. Remember, meditation is a practice. It is never perfect. With these simple steps, you are ready to begin just as you are!
1. Sit comfortably.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Make no effort to control your breath; simply breathe naturally.
4. Focus your attention on the breath.
5. Take a full, deep breath slowly enough to last four seconds.
6. Hold that breath for four seconds.
7. Exhale slowly enough so that the out breath lasts four seconds.
8. Hold your exhaled lungs for four seconds.
3. Monitoring Exposure to News and Social Media
Overexposure to news and discussion about the Covid 19 Pandemic is extremely upsetting, especially for seniors. The best way to prevent overexposure is by purposefully staying off news stations and social media outlets. You can stay informed by creating a set time during the day to check-in for any updates in a manner that is specific and methodical. For example, you can set aside time to look for news about your city, then your state, and then national and global updates. Afterwards, mentally check these updates off as though they were part of your to-do list. Find alternative activities for the rest of your day such as reading a book, listening to music, or watching television programs and movies that are uplifting and entertaining.
4. Restoration and Replenishment of Energy
Seniors facing a pandemic situation are prone to high levels of stress that will drain their energy. During difficult times, it is imperative that you are intentional about taking time each day to restore and replenish your physical and emotional reserves.
The first step in restoring your energy is recognizing situations that deplete your energy and limit exposure to them. Emotionally draining situations often involve a specific discussion, relationship, or an activity. For example, you may realize that certain conversations increase your anxiety or negative thoughts. You can divert such discussions by engaging your friends in conversations about more uplifting topics such as what you can do or what is going well in your life.
You can effectively refuel your energy reserves by deliberately paying attention to your moment-to-moment experiences, focusing on your breath, evaluating what you are grateful for, and intentionally focusing on positive aspects of your life.
Adopting restorative practices won’t eliminate all stressful situations. However, they will increase your resilience and build your daily energy rather than deplete it.
5. Increasing Physical Activity
Routine physical activity is one of the best strategies for seniors to combat “Pandemic Fatigue”. Regular exercise is ideal for enhancing their quality of life and reducing their stress levels. Exercise releases serotonin which has a relaxing and calming effect on your brain and body. When you work out, your brain releases powerful endorphins that energize your mind, body, and spirit. These endorphins create a sense of well-being that acts as a natural supplement for reducing depression and anxiety. Intentionally forcing yourself to get up and move can take your mind off of worries by providing a break from negative thoughts and boredom.
You can establish a regular exercise routine by contacting a friend to set up routine physical activities together. Meeting up with a friend for a socially distant walk and wearing a mask can make a huge difference in your mental health.
6. Seeking Senior Counseling
Seniors who have tried various coping strategies and continue to experience persistent sadness or overwhelming depression may require professional elder care counseling to help with managing their emotional response to “Pandemic Fatigue”. Senior counseling services offer an excellent option for discussing your feelings and experiences with a trained professional who specializes in developing coping skills that will help you adapt to the realities of a worldwide pandemic through in-home counseling for seniors.
At Sunshine Senior Counseling, we believe that every life matters and deserves to be treated with respect and kindness through counseling for elderly. Our compassionate and caring licensed therapists use senior counseling approaches that focus on transforming destructive thought patterns into positive strategies that highlight your unique strengths. Our professional team specialize in helping seniors engage their problem solving abilities with elder care counseling for optimal results. We offer a wide range of elderly counseling services including marriage counseling for seniors, group therapy for seniors, senior peer counseling, and senior counseling for grandparents raising grandchildren.
Call Sunshine Senior Counseling today to set a senior counseling appointment and create a life you will love!
Disclaimer: The strategies listed in this article are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or other forms of emotional distress, we recommend that you consult with a licensed mental health professional or other qualified provider in regards to your condition.