It’s been nearly two years of social distancing, mask-wearing, worrying about getting sick and facing disappointment whenever planned activities get canceled. Nobody knows when the pandemic might end, but everyone wishes that the stress and fear that it’s been causing would just go away.

It makes sense that all of us – including our children – are experiencing COVID-19 mental fatigue. It’s affecting not only our physical health, but our mental health.

What are the signs of COVID mental fatigue?

  • Symptoms of depression (e.g., sadness, lack of interest in things) or anxiety (e.g., constant worrying, difficulty relaxing, muscle tension, trouble focusing)
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Getting angry or upset more easily
  • Feeling unmotivated to keep up with daily activities

For children, this can also include:

  • Stomachaches
  • Acting out (e.g., throwing more tantrums, not listening)

In some cases, children, teens or adults may feel like they’ve hit a wall and can’t be bothered to follow COVID-19 safety precautions anymore, which puts them at increased risk of infection.

What are ways to deal with COVID-19 fatigue?

It’s important to maintain a routine that includes healthy sleep, eating, and exercise habits. Adding fun activities and social connections to our current routines, especially when quarantined, will also help.

 But what else can you do? How do you respond when your child is disappointed in yet another cancelation or disruption?

  • Set realistic expectations. We want to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Making plans can help lift our mood, but we want our kids to prepare for the possibility that some activities may be canceled due to COVID.
    • Make a plan with your child of what you will do if there is a last-minute cancelation.
    • Normalize emotions of frustration, sadness, or anger.
    • Remind them that these precautions and cancellations are in place so that we can protect ourselves, family, and the community and that this is all temporary.
  • Notice thoughts. Our feelings come from our thoughts. Talk to your kids about what is going through their minds. Answer any questions they may have in an honest and age-appropriate way. If they are asking about it, it means they are ready to talk about it. Help them challenge negative thoughts by asking questions:
    • Have you gone through hard moments before?
    • How did you cope with them?
    • How can you do it now?
    • What would you tell a friend if they were feeling the way you are right now?
  • Accept your feelings (and your kids’ feelings) as valid. Right now, we are all feeling different emotions, including sadness, anger, frustration and exhaustion. Create an environment where you and your child share your emotions and talk about how to cope with them.
    • Come up with a coping plan together. This can include a mindfulness practice, gratitude practice, relaxation strategies, or distraction/fun activities.
    • Focus on the current moment and where you and your child have control. Even just 10 minutes a day of meaningful family time can be helpful.