Business News

Fed up with COVID-19? You might have pandemic fatigue

November
17, 2020

7 min read

This article has been translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors can occur due to this process.

This story originally appeared in The Conversation

By Jay Maddock , Texas A&M University

As the pandemic drags on, following COVID-19 prevention guidelines appears to be an increasing challenge.

This type of fatigue isn't limited to just pandemic precautions like maintaining social distance, wearing face masks, and washing hands. In all types of health-related behavioral changes, including increased physical activity, healthy eating, and decreased tobacco use, at least half of people fall behind within six months.

Think in early April. Much of the United States was under orders to stay home. Nearly 1,000 people died of COVID-19 in New York City every day, and new cases of this previously unknown disease emerged across the country.

Fear of the coronavirus made people ask about quarantine supplies as soon as possible or rush through stores to avoid them all. When they got home, the shoppers cleaned up their groceries, washed their hands vigorously, maybe even showered, and put on clean clothes. People got used to staying home.

Today there is still no cure or vaccination for the coronavirus, and the number of infections is increasing. Nearly a quarter of a million Americans have died from COVID-19, and the risk of infection remains. Now is the time to build up your resolve and revert to prevention efforts.

But only a few report the fear that all these measures to avoid germs caused. Why?

As a public health researcher studying health-related behaviors, I know that there are several psychological causes of fatigue. Fortunately, research also suggests some tactics to help you stay safe and protect your sanity and wellbeing.

How bad is it really?

One explanation for getting out of the prevention trolley consists of two important predictors of health behavior.

One of them is perceived vulnerability: how likely are you to get an illness?

The second is the perceived severity: if you get the disease, how bad do you think it will be?

There have been millions of COVID-19 cases in the United States, but all of these people make up less than 3 percent of the country's total population. Depending on where you live, you may only know a few people who have contracted COVID-19, although the numbers are high across the country. This can reduce the perceived vulnerability.

As doctors learned more about the coronavirus and improved treatments, the death rate also fell. In May, 6 percent of diagnosed cases were fatal; today the figure is less than 3 percent. This improvement can decrease the perceived severity.

People see such trends and believe that they are less prone to COVID-19 or that the severity of the disease is not as severe. You could argue that eight months have passed and I haven't gotten sick.

Now is the time to strengthen your resolve and revert to preventive measures / Image: Thomas Barwick / DigitalVision via Getty Images

Everyone else does it

Social norms are unwritten rules about how you should behave in society. While social norms can be communicated in many ways, one of the main ways is through observational learning. How do others like you behave in similar situations? When you see this, you will be given a roadmap for your own behavior.

When state governments decide to open bars, restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters, you can read this as a sign that these places are now "safe". If you see people socializing without masks and skipping social distancing, it also seems "normal" and could increase the chances of you forgetting about them too. It is similar to how peer groups have a profound effect on both food and alcohol consumption.

Longing for connection

Distancing efforts have increased feelings of social isolation and loneliness in many people, especially older adults and people who live alone.

Humans are by nature social animals. Therefore, social isolation can be particularly uncomfortable. And it can lead to a wide variety of poor health outcomes, including high blood pressure and insomnia. People may stop seeing friends in the spring and avoid reunions, but it can be very difficult to maintain long-term behavior that looks like everything is negative rather than positive.

The trick is to balance physical distancing with social connection. The researchers know that remembering or nostalgic about drinking or smoking is one of the main risk factors for relapse.

In the pandemic scenario, this is like thinking about what the world was like before COVID-19. An after work drink with a group of friends, a basketball game, or a live concert are things that people miss in today's world and it's hard not to think about the things that you can't do. However, thinking about them can bring back fond memories, but it can also encourage one to engage in risky behavior.

Stay safe and sound

The number of cases is increasing. The weather is getting colder in many areas, making alfresco dining and socializing less feasible. People need to double a level of caution that can be sustained for the next several months to be safe without increasing their social isolation.

Some recommendations must be strictly followed. Hand washing increased dramatically after the pandemic began. Hopefully this stays high as it is a fundamental way to protect yourself from many infectious diseases and one that you can endure without any negative mental health effects.

Face protection is also important. An August study found that 85 percent of Americans wore masks most of the time in stores. This should be kept high to limit the number of new cases.

That leaves the physical distancing that is probably the most difficult. Public health experts often advocate a harm reduction approach to behaviors where abstinence is impossible – this is a way to minimize, but not eliminate, risks. You still need to avoid crowds and large gatherings. When Zoom and other video chats are out of date, you can organize your own small meetings. Note, however, that while there are ways to minimize danger, socializing in a group involves risks. Remember, your meeting is only as secure as your most dangerous friend.

Pandemic fatigue is real and staying on high alert month after month is exhausting. Understanding better can build your resolve.

This article was translated by El Financiero.The conversationThis article is republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Articles