Fatigue has become a topic of discussion during recent therapy sessions. Several clients, myself included, have noticed that fatigue levels have increased, and many even have added “but I am not doing anything… I don’t get it.” Honestly, I did not get it either. It took me a couple of weeks to realize what was going on in my body.
COVID-19 has been a worldwide traumatic experience that has created a lot of uncertainty: financially, emotionally, physically, mentally and more. Trauma is defined as any event beyond a person’s ability to master at the time, I think its safe to say the pandemic falls under collective trauma. In addition, trauma has significant effects on the mind and body.
The autonomic nervous system plays a significant role in our emotional and physiological responses to stress and trauma. Our nervous system has two primary systems: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is the one associated with “fight or flight” response and releases cortisol into the body. The parasympathetic nervous system stops the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, it helps the body stop producing stress chemicals and shifts towards relaxation as well as regeneration.
Our sympathetic nervous system has been activated since the COVID-19 pandemic started, and this has caused our bodies to be in survival mode. Survival mode gets activated when we identify a threat, in this case the virus itself, and the repercussions that followed. So, even though some of us have stayed at home and may not be as active as before it does not mean that our nervous system is not working hard. This is the reason why many of us are experiencing physical and mental fatigue because our bodies are dealing with prolonged stress and uncertainty. Fatigue is one of the many symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder/response (I prefer to call it response because the way we learn to survive is not a disorder but a way to adapt).
Here are some suggestions you may want to try at home: home workouts, meditation, aromatherapy, journaling, progressive muscle relaxation exercises, cooking, watching a new Netflix show… or anything that will help manage stress better. Don’t get caught up in how productive you have been today and look at the bigger picture: we are going through an unprecedented global pandemic. Our bodies are doing what they are intended to do which is to keep us alive. Be gentle, be compassionate and stay healthy.
By: Maria Paz Garcia