Pandemic fatigue : what it is and how it affects us
Pandemic fatigue : Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been incorporating all kinds of habits into our daily lives to protect ourselves and reduce the number of infections. Masks, social distancing, and frequent hand washing became behaviors we did every day.
With the passage of time, the fear of the beginning of the pandemic has been transformed into exhaustion, fatigue from living in a crisis that is lasting too long and that we have lived with a lot of stress.
People have started to be less careful in recent months despite the fact that we are already in the second wave of the pandemic. It seems that sanitary measures are no longer taken so seriously, a mixture of distrust towards the authorities and the exhaustion of not being able to recover our old normal life: it has arrived pandemic fatigue. Let’s see what it consists of.
Pandemic fatigue : What is pandemic fatigue?
Pandemic fatigue : After almost 10 months of a pandemic, taking care of ourselves in every possible way to avoid contagion by COVID-19, not being able to lead a normal life and facing significant economic losses, Many people have begun to be a little careless and measures to avoid contracting the coronavirus are no longer taken so seriously.
Although the data indicates that we are experiencing the second wave of the pandemic, many people are beginning to think that “if I have not been infected before, why should I be infected now?”
The World Health Organization has begun to speak of a new term to describe the psychological situation and sanitary neglect that many people are beginning to manifest: pandemic fatigue. It is about demotivation to follow the protection and prevention recommendations, a demotivation that increases as time goes by.
According to experts, pandemic fatigue is a natural response to the crisis. Confinement, social distance, having to wear masks and not being able to do many of the formerly normal things has meant a very profound change in our lives. As the crisis has been lengthening, the longer its capacity to affect our mental health, which has resulted in this situation of demotivation and lack of interest in what to do to avoid the virus or how the situation is going in general.
The WHO has already carried out several surveys to find out in what percentage the population is manifesting the symptoms of pandemic fatigue. In the European case it has been seen that about 60% of the population manifests this problem as a consequence of sustained and unresolved adversity which is supposed to be the coronavirus crisis, with data that indicates that emotional exhaustion is even worse than it was at the peak in March.
As we have commented, pandemic fatigue can be defined as the emotional exhaustion produced by the current pandemic situation, especially due to the concerns that arise around the restrictions and measures imposed to reduce COVID-19 infections. This fatigue leads to loss of motivation to stay informed about the pandemic and, even, we can stop following preventive measures to stay healthy.
The main consequence of pandemic fatigue is that the population is reducing the risk of COVID-19. That is to say, more and more people do not see contracting the virus as something so serious or do not believe that there is a great chance of them being infected, despite the fact that epidemiological data worldwide indicate just the opposite. As the population stops following the measures to avoid contagions or they do not comply strictly with them, these measures proposed and imposed by governments are losing effect.
Although the idea of pandemic fatigue could be considered as something quite recent, a series of symptoms that define it have already been proposed:
- Sadness and worry
- Frustration and irritability
- Sleep disturbances: sleeping much more or much less than usual
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of motivation
- Frequent negative thoughts
As we mentioned, both in a pandemic and in any other crisis situation, it is normal that, in the long run, there is a loss of interest and spirits are low with properly depressive symptoms. If the crisis is very long, it is normal that the population begins to take the situation less seriously, although they do not stop living it with concern and their mental health is affected.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the most common feelings were fear, because it was not known how events would evolve; resignation, seeing how all our plans and lifestyle fell apart; and the surprise, since practically nobody imagined at the beginning of 2020 that we were going to experience a long global pandemic.
However, over the months the initial fear has been replaced by fatigue and a certain carelessness, combined with anger as people are fed up with having to cut back on social contacts, especially now that Christmas is approaching.
But despite the fact that there have been several feelings and positions that have changed throughout the pandemic, it has been an emotion that has been by our side all the time: stress. In fact, stress has been the cause of the pandemic fatigue that we are currently experiencing.
Stress is a mechanism that is set in motion when a person lives in a highly demanding situation, in which they have to put a lot of physical and mental resources and become tense trying to overcome in the best way the problem they are facing. If the problem raised by this answer persists for a long time, the person is wearing out physically and mentally, making you make more mistakes and become more vulnerable to the damage that this situation may cause you.
In our case, the problem has been the pandemic, which has not yet been solved. We have lived under stress during the last 10 months, a stress that has been combined with other more personal types that we had before, becoming a real time bomb for our mental health. It’s a vicious cycle: the longer the stress lasts, the more fatigue there will be and, consequently, more fatigue, exhaustion and irritability, together with less desire to comply with health measures.
Governments and health authorities are obliged to prevent pandemic fatigue in the population by applying measures, educating citizens and taking sufficient prevention with the intention of ensuring that people do not take too lightly the great danger in the one that has become COVID-19.
Taking this into account and recommended by WHO in Europe, Governments should consider the following to avoid the effects of pandemic fatigue.
- Identify and understand why the population experiences pandemic fatigue.
- Involve the population as part of the solution for the pandemic.
- Allow a normal life to be carried out while reducing the risk of contagion.
- Identify the difficulties that the population faces due to the pandemic.
We must understand that the less seriously we take protection and prevention measures, such as wearing a mask properly, washing our hands frequently, going out only for what is essential and reducing social contacts, the more vulnerable we will be to COVID-19. Likewise, to prevent this situation from occurring, we must follow the following recommendations that will help us not to feel pandemic fatigue and, therefore, we do not stop being responsible for our health and that of others.
- Sleep between 6 and 8 hours a day.
- Have good eating habits and eat healthy.
- Exercise every day.
- Avoid overexposure to too much news about COVID-19.
- Practice relaxation, breathing, meditation and / or yoga techniques.
- Respect social distance when going out.
- Choose to contact family and friends online rather than meeting in person.
- Accept that you are stressed and turn to a professional.
But what is most important of all this is educating about stress, the main risk factor for presenting not only pandemic fatigue but any other psychological problem. Properly treating stress and acquiring strategies to cope with it is obtaining an important protection not only against pandemic fatigue but also against the virus, since, as we were saying, the less we let our guard down, the less likely it is to be infected.
We must understand that going to a psychologist is not a bad thing, and even less so now that we are living such a stressful situation, only comparable to World War II. That everyone is going through the same thing does not mean that the one who asks for help is weak, but rather on the contrary, it is a strong person who seeks to stay healthy and survive this pandemic that is doing so much damage economically, socially, sanitary and psychologically.
- García, M. (2020). Pandemic fatigue due to Covid: what are its symptoms and how is it overcome? Spain: medical writing.
- Chavarrías, M. (2020). Pandemic fatigue; what it is, how it manifests itself and how to treat it. Spain: elDiario.es.
- Uricare, J. (2020) Pandemic fatigue: what is it and how to treat it? Venezuela: eldiario.
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