Fighting The Pandemic Funk

Author: Dr. Amanda L. Chase Avera
Posted: Tuesday, March 22, 2022 12:00 AM
Categories: School of Education and Behavioral Sciences | Pressroom | Faculty/Staff

Macon, GA


Feeling “pandemic funk?” You’re not alone.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the rates of anxiety and depression have increased by 25 percent in the Covid-19 era. The organization attributed this increase to stress as a result of social isolation, fear of contracting the virus, financial stressors, and grief for lost loved ones due to the pandemic.

Today, despite Covid-19 numbers and deaths significantly decreasing, many are still struggling with pandemic funk. This term can have several meanings but at its core, it simply means a gloomy outlook, perception, and worldview that is directly related to the pandemic. This definition has similar components to Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), which was affecting about 280 million people worldwide in 2019. These symptoms, coupled with worry, anxiety, trepidation, agitation, fatigue, and even anger can make it difficult to view life in a positive manner.

These thoughts and behavioral effects of the pandemic have shed light on a possible trend:  fear of and uncertainty of the future. This fear has been present since nearly the beginning of time but humans, being complex and motivated, have a desire to live, establish relationships, achieve success, and live without fear. The pandemic, lockdowns, mandates, etc. have created significant roadblocks to these desires which in turn has helped to set the stage for a rise in mental illness.

The question might arise as to if people are tired of the pandemic or are they depressed because of it?  The simple but yet complex answer is both, depending on who one asks.  Some individuals would state that they are tired and frustrated with the pandemic, lockdowns, mandates, and restrictions on their daily living.  One result of this fatigue and frustration could be depression. Others would share that they are fearful, anxious, and worried for family and society and want more restrictions. One result of this fear and worry could be depression.  From a mental health standpoint, the opinions of either are not as of much concern as rather the emotional and behavioral effects of each.  When a person becomes frustrated and feels their freedoms are being taken away, they can become protective, discouraged, and upset whereas a person who is fearful and anxious that there are not enough regulations can also become protective, discouraged, and upset.  The beliefs are different but the behaviors are the same which can lay the foundation for depression for both types of individuals.

What can we do?  Are there ways to combat this?  Absolutely!  Here are some backed-by-science ideas:

Eat healthy, avoid sugar

Research has shown time and time again the incredible effects that come from a healthy diet.  This does not mean substituting one coffee with one glass of water, but rather, a lifestyle change.  National Geographic completed a worldwide study of longevity and found what they dubbed “Blue Zones.”  These zones are places in the world where people live longer and have fewer diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer.  It was found that places such as Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, California; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica were the healthiest location on earth due to individuals exercising, eating a plant-based diet, believing in a higher power (as referenced by the Loma Linda group of Seventh-day Adventists). Dispensing with processed foods and eating healthier options improves the immune system and keeps the body and mind strong.

Processed sugar, or really any sugar and sugar substitute has nothing but negative effects on the body.  Negative effects such as increased risk of heart disease, higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes, and increased chances of developing cancer are just a few effects that sugar has on the body.  However, there is another potential effect: depression.  Reports show that individuals who consume higher contents of processed sugar are at a higher risk of developing depression than those who do not consume high amounts.  During the pandemic, many people turned to eating as a source of comfort and even something to do to pass the time of quarantine.  Could this be a potential reason depression rates soared during the pandemic?  Possibly so.


Most people will acknowledge that exercise is beneficial to the body but there is so much more to it than that.  Exercise releases a chemical in the body called endorphins.  This amazing hormone is a natural pain killer and mood booster.  It decreases a person’s sensation of physical pain and also improves their emotional wellbeing and disposition (Mayo Clinic, 2020).  Many runners and regular exercisers will testify that they feel better physically and mentally after a workout and the reason is endorphins.

Get outside

From the beach and plains to the mountains and forests, there is a serene peace that can be found in nature.  A study published in 2019 showed just how significant nature in in helping to reduce stress.  Participants were asked to spend time in nature and then track their cortisol levels.  Cortisol is a stress hormone that affects most cells in the body.  When the body goes into a state of flight or flight, cortisol is pumped throughout the body to prepare it for action.  This is normal, but too much cortisol can increase one’s chance of a heart attack or stroke, joint pain, respiratory issues, reproductive problems, and chemical imbalances, just to name a few.  The study, as well as others like it, found that for the individuals who spent time in nature, their cortisol levels dropped.

In conclusion, the pandemic has caused many problems across the globe and mental health is a significant one. The effects could potentially last up to decades. But there is hope! Use the suggestions here as kickstarters to help you develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle as you navigate a changed world.


Dr. Amanda L. Chase Avera, MGA assistant professor of psychology, is driven by both professional and personal experiences to treat individuals suffering from mental illness and educate students on the exciting world of psychology and how they can make a difference in this fascinating and ever changing field. Avera's professional background includes mental health, counseling and therapy, professional speaking, and higher education. She enjoys interacting with students and seeing them grow as professionals. She holds a Doctorate in Psychology from California Southern University, a Master of Social Work from Southern Adventist University, and a Bachelor of Social Work from Southern Adventist University.



Hunter, M. R., Gillespie, B. W., & Chen, S. Y.  (2019). Urban nature experiences reduce stress in the context of daily life based on salivary biomarkers.  Frontiers in Psychology, 10.

Kubala, J. (2018). 11 reasons why too much sugar is bad for you.

Mayo Clinic. (2020). Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress.

National Geographic. (2017). 5 “blue zones” where the world’s healthiest people live.

World Health Organization.  (2022). Covid-19 pandemic triggers 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide.,mental%20health%20services%20and%20support&text=In%20the%20first%20year%20of,Health%20Organization%20(WHO)%20today.

World Health Organization.  (2021). Depression.