If you’re like me, you’re probably feeling COVID-19 fatigue these days. I liken it to how I feel after training and running an event like the Sidney Lanier Bridge 5K — I don’t want to look at a treadmill or stair climber for at least a week!
The sweltering summer heat hit us full force last week and then the dust bowl followed up over the weekend. Those conditions make wearing a face mask, even of the most breathable material, unbearable outside. And, my hands are dry from hand sanitizer. I just don’t want to pick up that bottle again. I crinkle my nose while reaching for a mask to run an errand. Sigh.
I read an article last week, reporting many Americans are experiencing ‘caution fatigue’ regarding COVID-19 safety protocols. Yes, that’s me! (I’ll go ahead and speak for my husband, too … He’s suffering from the same condition).
The article quoted Dr. Jacqueline Gollan, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an influx of media attention on helping people comply with quarantine safety guidelines. I’ve observed a phenomenon called ‘caution fatigue’ — caution fatigue is low motivation or energy to observe safety information,” Gollan said.
“It occurs when we become desensitized to stress and warnings, and then outweigh the valid risks of injury for the benefits of a reward such as human connection, exercise or the outdoors. The burden of cautious behavior, especially if prolonged, can seem unnecessary and thus people become vulnerable to suggestions to bend safety rules,” she continued.
We could all use a break from social distancing, excessive hand washing and face masks, but should we?
Ironically, when we might be feeling the most caution fatigue — right now anyone? — is the time when our protocols should probably be heightened. U.S. virus numbers hit an all time high last week with neighboring Florida, Texas and California the most hard-hit. Georgia also reported daily and weekly records last week and Pierce County saw more of a spike in cases than earlier in the month.
We so desperately craved life to return to normal after weeks of sheltering in place and economic shut down that many of us jumped back out there a little too quickly perhaps.
Speaking to Fox News, Dr. Collin Reiff, a psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health, likened caution fatigue to swimming in the ocean.
“People go swimming in the ocean, a potentially dangerous place, and don’t take flotation devices with them. If you don’t see anyone drown, you feel fine doing it,” he said.
Just how do we combat this caution fatigue?
There are a number of recommendations for offsetting the fatigue. Perhaps one will work for you:
1. Remind yourself of the safety protocols when you head out each day.
2. Don’t block out all COVID-19 news reports, but find a credible source to get your information from.
3. Stay physically active
4. Seek a confidant to talk with about your frustrations — a licensed counselor if you’re suffering from depression or extreme anxiety.
5. Craft your own “coping statements” to encourage yourself. My grandmother was the queen of this trick. Her favorite was, “This too shall pass.”
6. Don’t neglect your religious practices — attend online services, pray and maintain devotions at home if necessary. Spiritual health is integral to emotional and mental health.
If none of those work, drown your sorrows in a tub of ice cream I suppose! We’ll get through this together … one bowl (or two or three) of chocolate mint at a time.
• Sarah Tarr Gove is news editor of The Blackshear Times. Email her at email@example.com.