The COVID Cycle – Dealing with COVID Fatigue, Reactivity and Conflict

Posted on by Alyson Jones. Posted in Blog.

What is COVID Fatigue?

Most people are feeling some level of COVID Fatigue right now – that feeling of being fed up with this pandemic, wishing it were over and overwhelmed with the high numbers of cases and the increased restrictions.


What is the impact of COVID Fatigue on us?
With this fatigue comes COVID Reactivity which means that people are quick to irritability, frustration, and anger. We are seeing an increase in people reacting to something in a disproportionate manner – a small thing that may have previously resulted in annoyance turns into a much larger emotional reaction.

Quick Cycling of Feelings – due to our COVID fatigue we are experiencing a mixture of feelings at a fast pace – we may feel gratitude one minute followed by despondence, anger, regret, then back to compassion and concern.

COVID Conflict occurs when the reactivity results in an interpersonal conflict with someone else – this could be somebody in our immediate family or even a stranger at the grocery story. Our irritability turns to anger, and even possibly rage, and we may then find ourselves saying or doing something that we would not normally do.

COVID Regret – feelings of regret and embarrassment after the confrontation, and a feeling of shock that we reacted or acted in the way we did.

Are people becoming more oppositional, and if so why?
When we are scared, sad and feeling threatened we often revert to more black and white thinking – our old brain (the survival part of the brain) gets activated and we become more rigid and self focused. This part of the brain has helped humans respond quickly to survive a threat, but in this circumstance, it can also backfire on us.

COVID Rigidity is the increased polarization and positional stances people are taking regarding issues (including the restrictions). Some people seek security through policing the restrictions while others seek security through protecting their personal rights. Unfortunately, this reduces our tolerance for different views and both sides are often quick to judge the other – thus leading to more COVID Conflict.

Where is this increased Conflict impacting us the most?
This COVID cycle can result in hurt relationships within our family or workplace.

  • Divorce and separation are on the rise.
  • There are increased instances of family violence.
  • There is increased tension in our close family relationships.
  • Workplace stress has increased.

Confrontation with strangers in public is on the rise.

  •  There are increased incidents of people “losing it” in stores and public places over a minor incident.
  • There are increased instances of road rage.

How do we manage through this time?
1. Awareness
When we are aware of this cycle, we have a much better chance of interrupting the cycle. We want to increase our understanding of what is going on in ourselves and with others. It is important to accept that our various feelings are natural and makes sense. That is why having honest conversations about this topic is important.

2. Acceptance
We need to accept that this is a difficult time and COVID is a reality we must deal with. As much as we might want to rage against it, we cannot turn back the clock. We need to accept it for what it is. This does not mean we cannot endeavour to change and improve the situation, but we need to have perspective and put this challenge in its proper place.

3. Mindfulness
Be aware of your physical and emotional responses.
Practice deep breathing – especially if your find yourself feeling stressed by something.
Take a moment to just pause and check into your senses (what do you hear, see, smell, taste, and touch).
Count to 10 – give yourself time to think before reacting.
Imagine a camera between you and the situation – it will give you a little distance from the emotionality of the situation and a better perspective.
Recognize the difference between feeling and action.

4. Kindness and Compassion
Look for ways to be kind to others. What is something you can do for someone that shows you care? How can you make somebody’s life a little easier? Small acts of kindness can go a long way right now.
Be kind to yourself – what act of kindness can you do for yourself today? It truly is ok to be kind and generous to yourself as well as others.
Be forgiving of yourself and others. We are all human and make mistakes. Human can be messy, but we can also clean up our messes. Taking personal responsibility and giving a heart felt sorry is the best place to start from if you regret something you did. Understanding the pressure someone else is under can make us much more forgiving to each other. The reality is COVID-19 has made us all vulnerable, and sharing our vulnerabilities can actually bring us closer and help us forgive those that have behaved poorly under this pressure.
Find your way back to compassion – there is so much more that brings us together than divides us. We are more alike than we are different – and we are all carrying this load together even if we are responding to it differently. We need each other, the last several months has shown us how true this is and how powerful human beings are when we come together, work thought our problems and support each other.