How to deal with MCO fatigue

MCO fatigue, or pandemic fatigue has taken me for a ride repeatedly these past two years. Just when I thought I am improving my mental health management during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, our government hits us with revised, often vague, SOPs that yet again halt any progress I had made.

I will be quite frank, I have been very frustrated this past year, a sentiment you probably are sharing if you had taken the time to read this. Beyond the fact that we are facing a global pandemic, and that we had been isolated from our friends/family for more than a year, we also cannot overlook the following contexts too which might have added to our consistent state of distress:

  • Persistent need to take precautions to safeguard your health + loved ones’ health
  • Frustration at the ever-increasing number of cases and death toll in Malaysia
  • Grief for not being able to pursue ‘normal’ work, education, life opportunities
  • Sympathy/Empathy towards those who are facing financial/relational difficulties due to MCO
  • Distraught due to stubborn friends/family members who are lax with SOP compliance
  • Anger at the government for our current state of the country (this is very much a major source of my pain!)
  • Helplessness over the lack of predictability for our future
  • And the list goes on…

I share these not intending to scare, but to affirm and validate your feelings. When every part of our life has been affected by the pandemic/MCO from the micro context of your day-to-day life to the macro context of the general global challenges, it then becomes imperative that you intentionally safeguard your mental health so as to not fall into despair.

I can admit that I had faltered many times since MCO began in March 2020. I was quite optimistic initially – I started this blog to help my peers get through the initial two weeks, however when it soon became apparent that this pandemic is about to last longer than expected – a couple of years perhaps depending on Malaysia’s vaccination rollout – I became very demotivated for life. I mustered whatever energy I had to followthrough at work, however, after hours is where I find myself mindlessly consuming media and sitcoms as background noise at every spare moment.

To be frank, I had not written in this blog for almost 5 months now, because I just have not had the energy to show up. However, seeing the unfortunate consequences of MCO 3.0 on my peers and community members has given me a renewed urgency to show up and start writing again here, which subsequently brings me to point number one.

Find/Remember your constant

When every single day starts feeling the same, it is an easy trap to fall into complacency and/or sadness. I have found it terribly hard to wake up in the morning, because I genuinely had no excitement for life or any of my current tasks. However, seeing my fellow Malaysians being distressed due to MCO and the lack of support provided to them, created an urgency, ie. a purpose for me to show up for my community and subsequently create these relevant mental health resources.

If you are service-oriented like me, this may be an interesting approach to define your constant – to look at what are the gaps that you can currently fulfill in your community and to follow through effectively on them. Alternatively, reflect on what are your primary motivators/constants, eg. I need to show up for the sake of my health, my family, my partner, my kids, my passion, my future, and I will do this by ____________ (Note: It does not have to be a grand gesture nor do you have to do anything new, sometimes, all you need to do is just to be there or be more present).

Continue learning and growing

While I was stuck in a rut for the past couple of months, I did not perform any of my morning nor night routines, which then only further aggravated my general sense of ‘ruttiness’ and restlessness. One night, out of frustration, I YouTube searched ‘How to get out of a rut’ which then led me to a familiar face – Mel Robbins, a motivational speaker/author.

In her video, she clarified that ‘being stuck in a rut’ is not inherently a bad thing – instead, we should reframe it simply as a clear signal from our body that our current trajectory is not working and therefore requires immediate intervention. Specifically, being stuck in a rut implies that you are missing out on growth. How do we go about this then? By seeking opportunities that fulfill our growth and curiosity – eg. signing up for an online class of your choice, going on an introspective date night, reading a new self-development book, asking your boss for more interesting projects, etc. Such activities are useful in providing you the feeling of making progress in addition to some much-needed novelty in your life. I started by reading a new non-fiction book!

Remember your locus of control

As you are perfectly aware, there are countless individuals, families and establishments who have been hit hard by the pandemic and MCO restrictions. As someone who works full-time in the advocacy field, I am constantly coming across new fundraisers and injustices, which can make a major impact on your emotional labor. I had often found myself feeling paralysed, ‘Surely I can’t donate to every single thing’, ‘I am passionate about this topic, but I don’t have time to make it to all these webinars’, ‘I can’t go protest every single injustice’, ‘Even I do help, it won’t make much of an impact unless the government takes it seriously!’.

However, a year plus into MCO, I have learnt to reduce this paralysis by focusing on what I can contribute within my internal locus of control. I have become much more selective with my causes and have defined what are the extents of my contributions to each, ie. how much time, money, energy I spend on it (refer to my older blogpost on mindfully keeping up with different advocacies). I am also here to warn you to be wary of people who would berate or guilt-trip you for not knowing/engaging fully/contributing to their cause. Yes, it is important to stay engaged on the issues, but don’t feel guilty about doing it at your own pace and capacity.

I hope this article was useful for you! For further reading on general pandemic fatigue and on safeguarding your well-being during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, check out the following list that I thought was useful:

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