Opinion: COVID fatigue is real; how do we cope?

Dr. Jesse Malott

When the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Memphis in March, few would have predicted that eight months later, we would be experiencing a record number of cases around the country.

At the beginning of the pandemic, energy was invested in ramping up testing, connecting people with social services, securing economic support, as well as encouraging the morale of our people.

And then, people got tired. COVID fatigue is a real thing.

Mental fatigue happens whenever we undergo prolonged stress and struggle: we just get tired of thinking about it. Maintaining a “constant vigilance” is exhausting.

Researchers have been studying a phenomenon called post-traumatic growth for several decades, but we’ve known about it for thousands of years. Essentially, it is the ability for people to grow as a result of intense struggle or trauma.

However, the health and safety of our loved ones, our neighbors, and our fellow Americans requires that we find renewed sources of focus to beat back this new wave of infection. Where can we look for such a thing?

Researchers have been studying a phenomenon called post-traumatic growth for several decades, but we’ve known about it for thousands of years. Essentially, it is the ability for people to grow as a result of intense struggle or trauma.

When this happens, people can foster deeper relationships, become more flexible, creative, and resilient, while developing a profound sense of gratitude for life and God. In making meaning of our hurt, we can find a renewed sense of purpose and keep fighting.

Notice that post-traumatic growth doesn’t negate suffering; it is not about finding a shortcut around the hurt. Instead, it is about bearing witness to real grief and valuing the depth of soul that is possible on the far side of that pain.

Memphis is hurting, and whether we have lost loved ones or mourn the loss of traditions and the old normal, we have the choice, the power to come together and find meaning in that loss.

As both individuals and organizations, we can seize this opportunity to become more whole, more grounded than we used to be. These habits help foster post-traumatic growth:

  • Take stock of what has changed and how you have been affected by the events this year, both the good and the bad.
  • Talk about it with others. Encourage them to do the same with you. It’s how we make sense of things.
  • Find gratitude. No matter how tiny it is, find something to be grateful for each day.
  • Serve. Do something selfless for someone else. People do far better when they are doing something that helps others.

Together we can prevail.

Help us provide care to our communities.