Pandemic Flux

Pandemic Flux Syndrome has been described by noted social psychologist and author Amy Cuddy as a non-clinical term that captures the experience of the COVID pandemic since March 2020: a period with mixed messages about the health threat, unpredictable and inconsistent approaches of lockdowns, and the impact of the virus on families, schools, workplaces and our day-to-day activities. These factors have created a back and forth of emotions. For example, the excitement of schools re-opening and the subsequent fear of many parents that their children were at risk of contracting COVID. And the positives that some of us have found during COVID, have led to an ambivalence about going back to the way things were before. These conflicting emotions have contributed to the intensity of the flux throughout the last two years.

Amy observes that there are other impacts such as an “immense uncertainty about social behaviour” (to handshake? to hug or not to hug?) and social anxiety for people who have endured little social contact but are now hesitant to engage with people face-to-face. She says that the range of pandemic flux feelings and reactions can be attributed to the depletion of our nervous system; our bodies aren’t designed to be in a constant state of fight-or-flight. So, it is important to recognise that the pandemic has touched everyone; take time out to practice self-care and allow our bodies to de-stress.


Amy Cuddy’s five suggestions for managing pandemic flux

  1. Take a break from the overwhelming stimuli – whether that’s the news, combative people, too many Zoom meetings… whatever it is, take a break from it. She also urges compassion towards those around us who are also depleted right now.
  2. Recognising and accepting that humans are prone to overestimating how good or bad they will feel about positive or negative life events gives those feelings less weight. “In other words: we may think that we’ll never recover from this pandemic, but the reality is that we have strong psychological immune systems and we will.”
  3. If we feel unmotivated or that we have lost our sense of control, remind ourselves we still have access to our personal power which is internal, not external. “It’s more important than ever to tap into that, by carrying yourself with self-respect – open, expansive posture; deep, slow breathing; slowing down (temporal expansion); moving with purpose and expansiveness.”
  4. Also, focus on the aspects of our lives that we can control, even if they’re small and choose a “fresh start moment”. For Cuddy, it was the moment her favourite band (The Grateful Dead) played a particular song at a live concert. “As soon as the first few notes of the song were played, I felt overcome by this intense wave of emotion and liberation. I felt that I was allowed to move forward, emotionally.”
  5. See this as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and how you want to live your life. “What did you notice about what did and didn’t work well for you in your work life and your personal life? Based on what you learn, are there things about your lifestyle, routines, etc. that you can change when we return to something closer to ‘normal’?”
  6. Acknowledge that we are grieving. Industries have been decimated and people have lost livelihoods, freedoms and, in some cases, loved ones to COVID. “We are traumatised and grieving, yet it’s very difficult to process trauma when the threat is still present, as it is now,” Cuddy says. “Each one of us has experienced loss. And we must recognise that – in ourselves and each other. And realise that grieving is natural and necessary if we are to progress toward rebuilding.”



Sarah Berry, “Ambivalent about lockdown ending? It might be ‘Pandemic Flux Syndrome’Ambivalent about lockdown ending? It might be ‘Pandemic Flux Syndrome’” Sydney Morning Herald, October 9, 2021.



Back to articles