Fire Fighting in Canada

Well-Being: Strategies to boost energy during COVID

Elias Markou

February 26, 2021 
By Elias Markou

Okay, I want you to raise your hand if these questions are true for you. How many of you have been struggling with your energy during the COVID-19 pandemic? How many have not exercised or worked out as much since all this COVID-19 stuff started back in March? How many of you know your diet is totally off?

If you said yes to all of my questions, then you are experiencing what I call the “COVID Fatigue” or the “COVID Energy Steal”. Since September, many of my patients have been reporting a feeling of lethargy, low energy, depression, no desire to be active, and everyone’s sleep has been horrible. Diets have been poor and workouts forgotten. My firefighter patients have told me collectively the energy at the hall, among colleagues from other departments, and the service in general is showing signs of a deep feeling of exhaustion, fatigue, and sense of defeat.

I am often asked: “How can I get rid of this feeling? What can I do to get my drive and energy back?”  

There is definitely a mental fatigue that has manifested into a physical fatigue as the pandemic continues. Firefighters have been essential frontline responders facing risk of COVID-19 infection since the onset of the pandemic. This continual stress has been weighing heavily on the mental state of firefighters. Researchers at Harvard Medical School’s Stress Trauma and Resilience (STAR) program say these firefighters are experiencing “crisis fatigue”.


The job of a firefighter already comes with inherent risk of mental health issues. The damaging effects of COVID-19 “crisis fatigue” comes with an even heavier health consequence. Clinically I have observed that many patients, including firefighters, have allowed the mental fatigue they experienced now take over many of their activities and physical activities are being neglected. Here are some examples:  

  1. Diets have changed and people are consuming more fast food and junk food. 
  2. Gyms, yoga studios and physical fitness facilities have been closed. People have neglected being active for many months in a row.  
  3. Sleep has also been directly affected. Many worry and wonder when the end of the pandemic will arrive.

Let’s look at some key strategies to get firefighters back on track to

feeling energized and getting rid of COVID fatigue.

Hack your physical activity
Many favourite motivators such as CrossFit or the gym have faced lengthy closures, so how do we get you moving again? Try: 

  • Motivating you partner to do it with you. When you are accountable to someone, you can almost definitely get it done.
  • Be physically fit by doing the programs that make you happy. I enjoy cycling, so we went ahead and invested in stationary bike. Now the entire family loves riding the bike.
  • Explore YouTube and find the best activity that you are interested in and are motived to do. There are so many great personalities and content on physical fitness. 
  • Schedule your physical activity in your phone with a reminder. When it is scheduled you are more likely to do your exercise.

Vitamins for vitality
Here is a short list of supplements that can have a direct impact on energy and mood. Please ask your medical health professional if these vitamins are safe with your medication and current health concerns.

An advanced B-complex vitamin is one of the key supplements needed to support all the systems including the brain and the body associated with boosting energy. Extra vitamin B12 is critical in providing energy for the body.

Make sure your vitamin D levels are optimal. Low vitamin D can negatively affect your immune system, your hormonal system and your energy deliver to cells in the body.

Magnesium is a very important mineral that also helps to support the nervous system responsible for your energy boost.

A protein powder, whether it is a whey protein or a vegan plant-based protein powder, can help. Try a heaping scoop in a shake once a day. Building energy and being active during the pandemic should be a firefighter’s top priority for maintaining energy and mood. 

Dr. Elias Markou is one very busy naturopathic doctor. He is in private practice in Mississauga, Ont., and is the chief medical officer for the Halton Hills Fire Department. Dr. Markou was a firefighter for six years; he has a special interest in firefighter health, is a writer and blogger who is regularly featured on television and radio and in print. Contact him at 

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