The 2021 Communal Fatigue

By Kiyari Kufat

Can you believe that 2021 is finally over? It seems it was either a really great year or a terrible year for most people. However your year was, I’m sure it was far from normal. The past few years have been pretty crazy, but this one has been especially stressful and by the end of it most of us were feeling pretty drained. There are several possible reasons for this communal fatigue, some of which are clearly related to COVID.

I found that last year many people seemed extremely unmotivated. Obviously, some people stayed very motivated and excelled in whatever it was they were so passionate about but, at least for me, last year was terribly tiring and I had a hard time finding the motivation to do just about anything.

Recently I’ve started to wonder why this is and why it seems like everyone is experiencing this. Has it always been this way and we’ve only just started to talk about it, or did 2021 bring a surge in apathy? If so, why is that the case? There are surely several things that have caused this including: COVID restrictions and all the changes that have arisen, other mental health concerns, external influences, such as social media use, and just plain being a teenager!

Mental health can greatly impact your motivation, especially mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Boston University published research on depression rates during COVID and found that rates have tripled since the start of the pandemic – so much so that now depression affects 1 in every 3 adults! Although depression is not the same for everyone, it often affects people’s motivation.

There are many ways that depression can affect motivation. I found a great example of this in the book It’s kind of a funny story by Ned Vizzini (which is based off of his own experiences). The main character, Craig Gilner struggles with depression and it really affects his motivation. He gets into this terrible cycle in which he would look at the pile of work he had to do and become really anxious because of it and in turn, not be able to start. He would keep putting it off and the workload would keep increasing, which would then increase his stress level. Since he wasn’t motivated to do it, even if he finished everything he had to do, once he was finally done there would be something else assigned and the pile of work would never go away. Craig wasn’t a bad student, in fact, he excelled in school and I think that goes to show that this can really affect anyone and everyone.

I definitely believe that COVID has a large impact on motivation. At this point, I feel confident saying COVID has us all exhausted. When it first started impacting our lives, we got an extra week off school and, when we went back to school online, school became more lenient. Then, when we started back online in 2020, the teachers couldn’t even lower our grades, so many people didn’t put much effort into their work. Even though the rules became more rigid when we went into online school the next year, we could still pay less attention in most classes and ultimately put in less effort.

Many of us got used to this workload, considering the fact that we could wake up later and lay in bed whilst doing our school work. Going back to school in person all the time, with the possible addition of sports or other extracurriculars, has been difficult for most of us. It’s definitely more than we were used to now, and the new workload has many of us worn out, which definitely doesn’t help to keep us motivated in any way.

As a teenager, I think that part of this lack of motivation is normal. I think we all know that the school system was not made for teenagers. Teenagers have a reputation of sleeping all day and staying up all night. Believe it or not, this isn’t us just being lazy! There are studies that prove that teenagers actually have a different sleep schedule than adults. Teenagers’ sleep schedules shift 2-3 hours during teenage years. Therefore, we often don’t get tired until 11-12, and many of us have to wake up around 6-7 for school the next day. It’s hard to be motivated when you’re exhausted! This lack of sleep weakens our performance; this can discourage us and unmotivate us.

Thinking of all these factors, it’s easy to see why so many of us are unmotivated, especially if we don’t have something we are passionate about or working towards achieving. I’ve heard from many friends about how exhausted and anxious they are. Now I wonder if this will change in the new year.

It may be slightly easier getting back into the school routine. We have almost completed a semester of school with this new schedule and we have grown more accustomed to the workload. I hope that everyone had a good break and got some rest to catch up from school so far. With that we’d have a better chance of staying motivated this next year. It may not be easy, but I definitely think we have better odds than we did last year!