Summer’s antidote to ‘COVID fatigue’

Months of following a strange new lifestyle have left people ready to break away and enjoy themselves. But summer’s pleasures can be experienced in a responsible way.

Alessandro Crinari/Keystone/via AP
A bather stands in a cooling natural stream under the Petronilla waterfall near Biasca, Switzerland, July 29.

The dog days of summer are in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere. This year that annual sense that life has ground nearly to a halt has been compounded by what some are calling “COVID fatigue.”

The pandemic’s disruption of normal activity has pushed on for five months with no end in sight. For some, a sense of isolation may have set in. Some people say they can’t remember the last time they received a hug from another human being. 

It’s one thing to hunker down at home in frosty March; but in August people want to unmask and hit the road or the beach. In recent days some 250,000 motorcycle enthusiasts roared into Sturgis, South Dakota, to celebrate their shared interest in the two-wheeled noisemakers, despite concerns that it might not be a good idea during a pandemic.

People may hold different perspectives on what are appropriate activities, but being a good neighbor doesn’t need to restrict our ability to find safe and constructive ways to feel refreshed and recharged.  

The mental health effects of the pandemic are a legitimate concern. A recent poll found a majority of Americans believe the pandemic is harming their mental health. Those deeply affected are being urged to seek counseling. 

A beginning for everyone is to reject the false choice between either a life of isolation, loneliness, and confinement, or unwise efforts to make human contact.

Early in the pandemic people dove into projects that provided productive outlets, from new adventures in cooking to sewing face masks. Phone calls and video chats helped people stay connected. Many learned to stay away from too much social media centered on COVID-19 chatter. Relying on a moderate dose of news from a few high-quality, unsensational media sources can help keep thought calm.

All those efforts, and many others, especially ones that move thinking off ourselves and on to helping others, are worth continuing. 

In good weather, just a walk or bicycle ride around the neighborhood can be refreshing. Even those who for financial or work-related reasons can’t get away to the countryside can take advantage of this simple pleasure.

For those who can get outside, summer weather has opened up a cornucopia of thought-lifting activities. Local parks offer playgrounds for children and picnic tables for outdoor meals and games – maybe even a spot to go fishing.

This summer’s camping boom has turned families formerly stuck in front of screens into budding nature lovers and outdoor explorers.  

Water is always a big attraction. People are taking to it in craft of all kinds, from canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards to water skis and sailboats. Experiencing the sight and sound of a waterfall can provide special moments of serenity and awe. 

All of these activities bring joy even while practicing social distancing. 

Summer is the time to “follow your bliss,” the phrase made famous by scholar Joseph Campbell in 1988. It’s a great time to listen for what fulfills you. “We are having experiences all the time,” Dr. Campbell said, that give “a little intuition of where your bliss is. Grab it. No one can tell you what it is going to be.”

It’s not just about doing. Projects can be rewarding, but for those who are able to get away, this summer offers a time to step off the treadmill and gain new insights, such as how little we may really need to do so many things, such as buy more stuff. 

And, of course, it’s a great time to quietly pause and remember to count our blessings. 

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