Pandemic fatigue and how some Nova Scotians are dealing with COVID-19 anxiety

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Pandemic fatigue and how some Nova Scotians are dealing with COVID-19 anxiety
It was March 22, 2020 when Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency due the pandemic and it's been a tough 13 months for Nova Scotians. With another of cases of COVID-19, the province finds itself in another lockdown and it's hard not to feel the stress of it all. Jesse Thomas looks at how people are dealing with the anxieties of it all and focusing on their own wellbeing – Apr 29, 2021

It was on March 22, 2020, that Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 13 months since have been tough for Nova Scotians, who now find themselves back in another provincewide lockdown.

Pandemic fatigue is something we’ve all likely dealt with at one time or another and it’s hard not to feel the stress of it all.

“It’s been a slog,” said Nova Scotia senator and psychiatrist Stan Kutcher.

“It’s very useful to think about the pandemic as a slog,” said Kutcher. “Because that construct tells us we don’t like it and we’re not happy with it and those are normal human emotions and let’s accept them, that’s the reality, but we have to get on with it and we have to do what needs to be done.”

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By saying “what needs to be done,” Kutcher is reiterating what the medical and public health experts like Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang and his provincial counterparts have been saying since day one of the pandemic and that’s to follow public health guidelines, like wearing a mask in public and keeping a safe distance.

Although the vaccine rollout is gaining momentum in Nova Scotia, it’s clear we’re still not out of the woods yet, as there’s an outbreak currently with community spread of the COVID-19 virus in the greater Halifax region, which has prompted a two-week provincewide lockdown to try and further curb the spread of the disease and new variants.

The situation is causing some anxieties and it’s bringing some deep feelings to the surface.

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“You feel disheartened, you may feel demoralized, you may feel distressed but that’s OK because that’s how you are supposed to feel when you are faced with this,” said Kutcher. “If you felt happy and joyful, then there’s a problem.”

According to a Dalhousie wellness and stress study released Thursday by the Agri-Food Analytics Lab in partnership with Caddle, 77 per cent of nearly 10,000 Canadians surveyed earlier this month said their stress levels were impacted by the pandemic.

“Some of the findings are quite troubling, especially for the younger generations,” said Sylvain Charlebois, Dalhousie professor and director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab. “People under the age of 40 were violently disrupted by the pandemic, especially with the confinements and lockdowns, for generations who would typically be out having a great time and moving around.”

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The report dug deeper and revealed that during the past year, nearly three adult Canadians in five reported undesired weight changes since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Nearly 52 per cent of those polled said they tend to eat more when they feel worried about the pandemic, with women slightly more inclined to stress eat due to the pandemic than men, as 53 per cent of women surveyed admitted to stress-eating during the pandemic, versus 47 per cent for men.

But Charlebois said it was men on average who have put on more undesirable weight and says he’s not surprised by the results.

“Many Canadians working from home didn’t have as much free time as they anticipated, and without a normal structure of the day, many of us lost our daily food bearings,” said Charlebois.

Charlebois says it’s important to build healthy habits that work for you. We’re all on different schedules and so do what works for you and now it’s time to get outdoors and enjoy life.

“A year ago it was devastating to see beaches and trails closed,” said Charlebois. “This time I think they are doing it right, encouraging people to get outside and do it right.”

A sunny forecast Thursday helped put little spring back in the step of some Nova Scotians who elected to get outside, like Kevin Connors, who used the opportunity to bike around Halifax.

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“We’re riding around the city on our bikes and just getting outside for some fresh air,” said Connor. “A day like today, I’m clearing my head out.”

Connors is looking on the bright side. He’s received his first vaccination and says the finishing line to the pandemic is in sight and judging the numbers of COVID-19 cases, he’s encouraged the numbers will decline with the strict lockdown measures.

On Thursday Nova Scotia reported 70 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, down from 75 new cases Wednesday and 96 the day before.

“Let’s keep trending down and doing what we’re doing to get out of this,” said Connors.

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