It’s the moment many of us have been waiting for months to enjoy, so why are we all feeling knackered after only a couple of weeks of post-lockdown life? Re-entry fatigue may have got us yawning our way through the day but it’s nothing a little movement, better nutrition and some good habits can’t solve.
For the last 14 months, we’ve longed for dinner parties, lusted after gym classes and, dare we say it, dreamed of the office hubbub. Now, with the country on track to normalcy, venturing out has never felt so good… and so exhausting. You only have to look on Twitter and Instagram to see the mutual re-entry fatigue we’re all feeling since dusting off the diary.
From putting an outfit together to re-learning witty repartee, it seems that flexing our social muscles has resulted in what is now known as the “social hangover”. Referring to the experience of needing a sizeable nap on the sofa post “normal life” activity, re-entry fatigue is the result of months of solitude which has left our brain still very much in Zoom mode.
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“Coming out of lockdown is a process of re-socialisation and navigating increasing sociality, with less time mediating communications and social life via the screen,” says Dr Rachael Kent, founder of Dr Digital Health and lecturer at King’s College London. “The process of re-learning face to face interactions both personally and professionally is draining, and we need time to adjust and recover from increasing time spent outside of our homes.”
Although you would think that a year spent relaxing at home, baking banana bread and storming through box sets would have us feeling rested and rejuvenated, it’s actually been a catalyst for a shift in our biological make-up. “If we were to measure the metabolism of neurotransmitters and hormones like dopamine and serotonin during lockdown, we would notice an increase in serotonin metabolism and a decrease in dopamine,” naturopath Olianna Gourli explains.
“This doesn’t mean we’re happier, as serotonin needs to be in balance to dopamine to be the so-called ‘happy hormone’. Introverted activities like working in front of a computer and reading for hours deregulates the balance of the two hormones, while outdoor activities and being close to nature bring the balance back. This is the main reason why some feel more tired after so many months of being confined.
“Socialising and creating connections is one of the main pillars of health and virtual communication has not only drained us but we have forgotten how to co-exist with other people because of it. Another thing to consider is that touching and hugging others adds a good variety to our microbiome (friendly bacteria that lives within our guts), boosting our immune system.”
We can all attest to the challenging times lockdown has handed us but even if you’ve muddled through relatively unscathed, Dr Rachael warns not to underestimate the effect that the pandemic has had on all of our emotions. In between government announcements, disappointing progress and frustrating outcomes, it’s been a draining period.
“We have experienced a process of global and national trauma which has made us anxious, depressed, lacking in motivation and concentration. We are in a permanent state of flight/fight mode, cortisol levels (the stress hormone) are high, and have been for 14+ months. This is hugely draining on the body and so we have to be kind and give ourselves time for re-learning and recovery in these new dynamics,” she says.
While once you may have been able to easily juggle late-night dinners, a full-time job and a bi-weekly spin class, lockdown has lowered our tolerance for functioning. “Face-to-face sociality is often more physically and mentally fatiguing,” Dr Rachael says. “We are using different areas of the brain, concentration levels are higher and we’re navigating ever-changing situations in the moment. We got used to doing less and seeing less people or seeing people more via the screen which is a different kind of interaction.
“Seeing people in person again can feel strange and wonderful, but don’t expect things to feel completely easy straight away or your energy levels to be high enough to do all that you might want to. When we think about re-socialisation, coming out of lockdown, and how we will manage with the strains on our physical and mental health, be aware and self-reflexive about this process, and don’t put pressure on yourself to do too much too prematurely.”
It’s hardly surprising that we’re feeling a little socially rusty, but with a little patience and a few early nights, we’ll be able to pick up where we left off.
6 ways to banish re-entry fatigue
Olianna shares her top tips for firing on all cylinders:
Listen to your body
“During lockdown, we had no choice but to listen to what our bodies needed. Some of us were sleeping later, having breakfast later and not hurrying about during the day. Although circumstances may have changed, try and remain attuned to what it is you need.”
Fuel up with healthy food
“If you spent lockdown experimenting with new healthy recipes and ingredients, try to keep up your healthy habits or see this as an opportunity to start. It is more important than ever to nourish our bodies with the highest quality foods possible to support the extra demands we’re asking of our energy. This means focusing on whole foods and trying to eat an anti-inflammatory diet including:
- Lots of vegetables
- Seasonal fruit
- Whole grains: quinoa, brown rice, sourdough
- Loads of healthy fats and oils: cold-pressed olive oil, olives, oily fish, like sardines and wild salmon, nuts/seeds and their butters, pasture-raised eggs, coconut, avocado
“With more talking and physical activity, hydration is key. Make sure that you drink at least half your body weight in ounces daily.” For most of us, that’s going to be around six to eight standard glasses.
“Movement is essential for maintaining stable energy levels but be careful not to over-do it as you’ll spending more energy on being out and about. Choose between having a brisk walking in nature, jogging, cycling, hiking, dancing or another sport of preference. Weather-allowed, outdoor activities tend to be better choices.”
Get into a good sleep routine
“Make sure you have a good wake-sleep routine. Do not go to bed later than 11pm and make sure you sleep for at least seven hours a night. A good sleep hygiene routine will help you go through these deeper sleep stages (necessary for fully recharging). This might include hot baths with lavender oil or Epsom salts, relaxing music, candles, reading or stretching.”
“Taking a high-quality multi-vitamin-mineral, as well as extra vitamin C, vitamin D and antioxidants, is essential for strengthening the immune system and boosting our energy levels. A clinician or nutritional therapist should advise you on a specific supplement regimen, according to your specific needs.”
Ready to boost your energy with a full-body workout? Hop on over to the SWTC video library where you’ll find a range of 30-50 minute workouts, led by our very own trainers.
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