Caution fatigue during COVID-19: Here's why one may feel it and how they can get better of the stress with a few steps
COVID-19 pandemic has managed to alter our realities so much that it feels like we were living in a science fiction novel.
You have to wear a mask, wash your hands, disinfect everything from door handles to your toilets, maintain a good distance from people, leave home only when you absolutely have to and worry about your own health as well as your loved ones’ constantly. These everyday precautions you’re expected to take and stresses that you now have can feel like a huge burden sometimes.
COVID-19 pandemic has managed to alter our realities so much that it feels like we were living in a science fiction novel. But the repercussions are real and have been immense and global. One has to be constantly aware and take precautions to avoid contracting or transmitting the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Caution fatigue is actually quite natural under such circumstances.
Why you might have caution fatigue
Caution fatigue refers to low motivation or energy to adhere to safety and hygiene guidelines that can help you prevent diseases or illnesses. This is not a medically or psychologically diagnosed condition yet, perhaps because it’s a new phenomenon being observed globally in the aftermath of the current pandemic. Reports indicate that Jacqueline Gollan, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, was the first mental health expert to bring this issue up in multiple interviews in April 2020.
Gollan suggests that the initial energy that you had when the pandemic started helped you give a positive spin on all the safety and hygiene guidelines, lockdowns and quarantine protocols. This energy started to wane as the virus continued to spread, the lockdowns got extended and you could not foresee a time when things will ultimately get back to your old normal. The following could be the reasons why caution fatigue began to set in:
1. Decreased sensitivity: You developed a decreased sensitivity to the source of the threat, i.e. the highly-contagious COVID-19 infection. Your mind has adapted to this threat, and your brain has convinced you that the threat isn’t real anymore -- especially if nobody around you has gotten directly affected by the disease yet.
2. Chronic stress: The last few months have caused chronic stress regarding health, finances, family care and other key areas of concern. These concerns have grown and sometimes taken more of a precedence than the pandemic, which is why your brain might be shutting away the threat of COVID-19.
3. Information overload: There’s way too much information that’s flooding all types of media regarding COVID-19. Not all of it’s accurate, a large part is conflicting or contradictory, and you may have difficulty discerning what’s useful and what’s not. Trying to keep up with all the details can be mentally exhausting and force one to give up trying to get the situation under control.
How to cope with caution fatigue
Whatever the reason is behind caution fatigue in your case, there is no denying that it’s dangerous for you, your loved ones and society in general. Not taking precautions, no matter how intense your fatigue, is not the solution here because the virus clearly isn’t going to go away soon - in fact, the number of new daily cases is at an all-time high. The tips below might help you cope better with your caution fatigue:
- Take a step back from all the immediate concerns for a day, or at least a few hours, and reevaluate your situation and behaviours. Think about the increased risks of you or your loved ones getting sick if you give up vital precautions, and use this to motivate yourself to stick to them.
- Set up a new routine. Change is difficult, but you need to accept that going back to the old routines is not possible. Building new ones might help you adhere to precautions and lead a “new normal” life.
- Stick to only one or two reliable sources of information, like official government social media handles. This can help you sift through information without feeling overwhelmed by it.
- Take your mental health very seriously, and deal with any signs of stress, anxiety, depression or stigma as soon as they come up instead of repressing them. You have to be mentally fit to get through these tough times.
For more information, read our article on Mental Fatigue and Exhaustion.
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