Pandemic Fatigue

Nothing to do, nothing to say – advice for maintaining relationships online

If you’re anything like me, you’re still in shock that you’re living amidst a pandemic. This is the sort of thing you might watch a movie about, probably not a great movie but one you could throw on when you have friends over. But to live it each day, it’s a lot more…meh…than I would have imagined.

Don’t get me wrong multiple parts of the pandemic are truly awful, and it’s been a rough ride for many of us, particularly for those who have lost loved ones or faced eviction from their homes. To all of which I offer my sincere sympathies. Yet, a certain aspect of the pandemic that is perhaps more trivial has really caught my eye.

The beginning of the pandemic saw a huge uptake in video calls. Of course, we all were aware of Facetime and Skype and for those of us in my school year I’m sure you remember such classics as MSN video chat. Yet suddenly, about a week into lockdown everyone and their dog were on group zoom calls making efforts to get in contact with everyone they knew amidst the panic of the first lockdown and the solitude it would impose on so many of us. But that was then, now it seems we’ve moved into another phase of the pandemic. No more zoom quizzes and family get togethers posted all over people’s stories, no, in this phase we have entered a form of social etiquette seen between an infant and caregiver.

Photo by KoolShooters from Pexels

Mutual reciprocity – late-stage pandemic etiquette

Has anyone else noticed they’ve gone from contacting their friends and family frequently to now barely speaking. Maybe you have some empty chit chat throughout the day with a close friend but generally, its an empty void. Nothing to do, nothing to say. Conversations are repetitive and dry. One rule has emerged, conversations about the pandemic are off limits. I’m terming this ‘pandemic fatigue’. After a year since the first UK lockdown, it seems nobody wants to talk about it anymore. But how do you know when is safe to discuss it and when are your nearest and dearest not in the mood?

This new relationship between one and their social circle has become oddly similar to that of ‘mutual reciprocity’. Renowned researcher in developmental Psychology John Bowlby put forward the case for this reciprocity as a core mutual interaction that occurs between infants and mothers. What this concept suggests is that a mother – or more appropriately – a caregiver enter into states of reciprocity with their child. This can be initiated by either infant or caregiver and during these stages learning and bonding occurs via facial expressions and mimicry of one another. Surely, we’ve all seen it, a baby smiles at you and you smile back and suddenly you’ve been fawning over this baby for 15 minutes. The key link to socializing in month 12 of the pandemic is the momentary and fleeting nature of these interactions and there almost spontaneous occurrence. For those of us experiencing a complete lack of social skills, spotting when is the right and wrong moment to try and discuss the P-word can prove tricky.

Dealing with ‘pandemic reciprocity’ – tips for going it alone

During moments of ‘pandemic reciprocity’ your stars align, and you and your co-conversationalist find yourselves in the mood to talk about the dreaded pandemic. These times occur when one or more of you give the indication that you’d like to discuss it. After an undecided amount of time the conversation is signalled to be over by the presentation of the statement, ‘it’s fine, it’ll be alright eventually…’. At which point the reciprocal state is ended and conversation reverts back to the safe small talk and slow replies.

Now, these moments can be rewarding and fun but fundamentally they’re the exception and not the rule. The rest of the time, we can find ourselves either wanting more from our friends or our friends want more from us than we have the energy for. Below are some tips for coping, managing your expectations and enjoying these fleeting moments.

  1. Stay mindful – remember that you and your friends and family are likely on different schedules, with different needs weighing on them. You can’t always get the level of attention you crave at any time like you could pre-pandemic. It might suck but it’s an unfortunate fact of life. Try and remember this next time you don’t get the response you hoped for.
  • The same is true for yourself, don’t be hard on yourself when your friends want more than you can give. You’re allowed to be busy, you’re allowed to not be in the mood. You’re entitled to your own privacy and your own space.
  • Bring something to the table – It may feel somewhat false or rehearsed to plan ahead for a conversation with a friend but having something in mind can be helpful when living the same day over and over. Particularly, reminiscing on the ‘good times’ can have psychological benefits for the both of you. Try and focus on the good times you’ve had without being drawn toward the negative fact that you cannot meet up any longer.
  • Only good may enter – Try not to want too much from others. That may be hard, harder now than ever, but doing so can worsen your mood and day-to-day experiences. Reaching out to a friend can provide a warm nostalgic feeling, a comfort blanket of sorts. Yet, if they’re feeling particularly pandemic-fatigued or not in the mood, this feeling of dashed hopes for discussion or catch up can leave you feeling down. Do your best to reach out to your loved ones with a pinch of salt. If they’re not in the mood, don’t let it phase you. Treat it like water off a duck’s back. Prepare yourself for enjoyment with negative feelings of dejection or being let down wash away.
  • Be your own boss – This tip involves taking the place of the social bonds you’re missing. Many of us are missing the social contact we once took for granted, with many realising this contact tied into our very self-image and is integral to how we view ourselves. With this gone many are feeling at a loss, struggling to define themselves now they’re in almost complete isolation. If this sounds familiar, try to tackle this by taking the place that this social interaction once took. Ask yourself, what you think about certain things, and in time you’ll realise you still have all the opinions and feelings you always had. You do not need others to teach you who you are, you need only consult with yourself.
  • Manage expectations – A tricky one but this tip offers great benefits. Consider what it is you hope to gain from interactions with others. Is it realistic? Is it helpful? The pandemic has shaken things up, so perhaps take it as an opportunity to rethink your relationships with others. If you’re seeking approval from others, ask yourself why? You have the ability to be as independent and self-fulfilling as anyone else. Once you see you may be hoping for too much from others it may be time to look inside and consider what it is, you’re missing and what you can do to achieve this.
  • Journal or diary – Yes, I know you’re tired of being asked to start a diary. Wherever you look on the internet there’s always some tired blogger running on coffee alone telling the world they *need* to start a diary. Sadly, I am one of them – though I’m more of a green tea fan myself. A journal or diary can really help you keep track of what’s going on around you, it’s easy to feel cut off or almost floating in a void of nothing. A journal allows you to look back and look ahead, grounding you in reality. Think of it as an exercise in testing out these tips, record how they work out for you and see if you think they’d benefit you in the long term. Just give it a try!
Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

Give these tips a try and see if they help you get more out of the limited interaction available this far into the pandemic.

Good luck out there!


Disabled Students Allowance – what you need to know

‘Disabled Students Allowance – mental health review’

What is it?

The Disabled Students Allowance is set up to provide support for students with recognised disabilities. The services, products and support provided as part of a DSA are unlike other government funded financial aid such as those given by Student Finance England (SFE) as these are free to the recipient and do not constitute a loan and are not repayable.

Who is eligible?

Anyone with a recognised disability is eligible. This includes various physical disabilities as well as mental health related disabilities. As the latter is what I received support for, this is what my experience centres around.

Eligibility is based on medical evidence provided by the applicant, usually the form of doctors note or records. The cost of which must be provided by the applicant, for which you are not reimbursed. This can cost from £10-£20 depending on the complexity of your case, but once you’ve received the note it can be used on multiple occasions as they require only a copy.

The only caveat is that you must speak with your doctor prior to applying for a DSA to ensure that your notes reflect the issues you wish to get support for. If not, your note may not evidence the full extent of your disability. Furthermore, it may not provide sufficient information to grant your application. It can be a pain with long waiting times for GPs but it’s an unfortunate necessity.

Mental health conditions?

As stated, my experience of the process is that of a student with mental health conditions, for which a variety of options are available after an initial consultation with a registered assessor.

Initial application process

The application can seem daunting at first but do not let it dissuade you! On the DSA website you can download an application booklet to fill out and apply. It looks full on, but the majority of the sections can be skipped, and the bulk of the booklet will be left blank!

It was during my consultation with my university that led me to apply for a DSA as they were familiar with the application documents so managed to put my mind at ease when it came to filling it out. So, it is well worth checking in with your university’s team!


As previously mentioned, along with the application you must submit your evidence. It is important that you check ahead of time that the GP or evidence source is fully aware of your disability and that this is reflected in your evidence. The DSA team need to see a consistency between what you describe and what your evidence outlines. But don’t stress you can speak about this with your GP before you apply for the doctors note and ensure that the correct details are in your doctors records. Additionally, if your evidence doesn’t quite outline things the way you would prefer, you are able to request edits to the note within the first few days of it being submitted to you. Though this may differ at the discretion of differing general practices.

The next stage – needs assessment

After submitting your evidence and your application has presumably been accepted you will be contacted to initiate the next stage of the process. Note, the burden is on you to chase up this correspondence and organise it. You will be sent a confirmation letter and a link to the site in which you can register for the next stage.

This stage is the specific assessment of your needs. You must book yourself in for a session with one of these centres, the cost of which is covered by your DSA and you do not need to fund this yourself at all. Mine took place via Zoom due to covid regulations but usually they take place in person, so it is prudent to choose an assessment centre nearby!

This assessment took roughly an hour and was with a very helpful staff member – though due to various centres the standard and approach may vary between them! The key aim of this session is to assess the ways in which your disability can negatively impact on your studies and how this can be helped.

This means that the support available will vary greatly based on two key factors, your disability and the particular course you’re on. For me, short term memory and reading was a key difficulty, and I was provided with software to help with these factors. It’s advisable to check the assessor is aware of the fundamental aspects of your disability and the key requirements of your course. It is worth coming prepared with important aspects noted down to ensure you do not forget anything important.

What support you could get

From what I can tell the support for mental health conditions is split into 3 categories.

  • The first is software. Different programmes are paid for and provided as part of a DSA. It must be agreed that each programme would help in an area that your disability disadvantages you Vs. a typical student without this disability.
  • The second is hardware. As part of a DSA you may be provided with additional hardware such as a new laptop or microphone/headphones. For me this was due to my current laptop being too slow to operate the software I required. There is a £200 non-refunded fee the applicant must pay towards the laptop. It can be delivered to your door with programmes fully installed.
  • The third and final is tutoring. This comes in two forms, tutoring for programmes and technology provided to ensure the applicant can use the software to the best of its potential. The other is personal academic tutoring. Weekly sessions provided to help applicants stay on track throughout their course. All of which are funded by the DSA.

Accessing equipment with DSA letter

Roughly 10 working days after your assessment your final DSA confirmation letter will be sent out to you and your university. This provides you with a full rundown of what you will be provided with along with the costs for each item. This letter will also have the contact information for suppliers you need to access your equipment. This letter should be sent to these companies as evidence for your DSA after which they will place your order.


All in all, it’s a great option for those that feel their mental health negatively impacts upon your performance. Here are my final thoughts:


  • Tailored to your needs – assessments allow you a good amount of time to discuss your issues and how the DSA could help mediate or resolve them.
  • Once evidence is provided it feels more relaxed and you are no longer having to ‘prove’ the impacts of your disability. It felt like my assessor was really on my side.
  • Non-repayable – Other than a £200 upfront fee for a laptop, you do not have to pay back any of the money used to fund the DSA.
  • Helpful assessors – the assessor I had was helpful and wanted to see me get the best outcome possible.
  • Training – this training also allows you to get the best out of the software or hardware provided. Taking place over Zoom.
  • Pretty straight forward – It does take a little while and can seem like a chore but overall, it’s pretty easy to access and understand what’s happening during the process. If I can do it, anyone can.


  • You must do a fair bit of form filling and booking etc. But it isn’t as much as it seems at first.
  • Must do a lot yourself – like the point above, the burden is on you to book your assessment centre, order your equipment by citing the DSA letter etc. All of which can seem like a lot to worry about if you already suffer from anxiety or depression. My only advice is to focus on how it is worth it in the end.
  • Long lead times – the process is relatively quick but with so many components involved it can take some time (checking with your GP, application, providing evidence, booking assessment, waiting for assessment to be filed, waiting for DSA confirmation letter, ordering, and waiting for equipment, starting training etc.) Realistically it will take some weeks to complete the entire process, so it’s best to apply sooner rather than later particularly if you need the support ASAP.
  • Still up to you – obviously, this is no magic fix for your condition(s), the work still needs to be done and deadlines may still cause you stress and anxiety. However, the support should help counteract some of this.
  • Not covering breakages – the DSA receipt/confirmation letter states that the equipment is not covered for breakages or replacements so keep your equipment in good working order. Better yet invest in preventative measures such as a protective case. Additionally, you can insure your device(s) using student friendly tech insurers.
  • Upfront costs – while the majority of the DSA is totally free a £200 upfront fee is required if you need a new laptop. This is steep for most people, but it is fairly cheap compared to the overall DSA costs. You can seek support by applying for grants. Some universities also do offer a refund procedure for this, so it is worth checking with your disability or well-being team.

Overall, it is a helpful service that offers a lot of tangible support as well as providing the feeling that you have got back some control over your life. I know I felt in a kind of, freefall, for a while but now knowing I have put the effort in to take steps to help myself I feel more secure in what I can do.