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Tired of washing your hands and wearing a mask? Are your efforts to social distance flagging?
You’re not alone.
This phenomenon – often referred to as quarantine fatigue – is only getting worse now that we’re months into the pandemic.
Jacqueline Gollan, a professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine calls it a different name – ‘caution fatigue.’ And how your brain works is to blame. Caution fatigue "occurs when people show low motivation or energy to comply with safety guidelines," Gollan said recently in an interview with CNN.
In a university article on the detrimental impact caution fatigue has on efforts to stay safe during the pandemic, Gollan likened it to an AA battery.
“Initially you may have been energized and positively focused on following pandemic-safety behaviour,” she wrote. “But as the virus has continued on, you may start to focus on the negative and feel physically or mentally depleted.”
This isn’t unique to the coronavirus. It’s the same principle someone might apply to some kind of alarm that’s been tested multiple times. If you’ve heard it before, there’s a chance you won’t take the alarm seriously when the threat is real, according to CNN.
“This mental state happens for a few reasons, including chronic stress, decreased sensitivity to warnings and the inability to process new information with others,” the media outlet reported.
Caution fatigue during the pandemic has been a concern since at least April, when TIME magazine reported “the prolonged cocktail of stress, anxiety, isolation and disrupted routines has left many feeling drained.”
"It's reflected when we become impatient with warnings, or we don't believe the warnings to be real or relevant, or we de-emphasize the actual risk," Gollan added. "And in doing that, we then bend rules or stop safety behaviors like washing hands, wearing masks and social distancing."
But, according to the Charlotte Observer, people aren’t just numb to the danger of the highly contagious virus, said Eric Kilmer, a professor of neuropsychology at Drexel University. Kilmer told Medical XPress — they see the coronavirus as “abstract.”
“It is an invisible enemy and it targets specific vulnerable populations more than others,” Zillmer said. “So, some younger populations for example, may not feel particularly threatened. Wearing masks or the energy it takes to comply with safety guidelines gets old very quickly.”
According to the Cleveland Clinic, a medical centre in Ohio, some signs of quarantine fatigue are:
Information overload can also be a contributing factor, CNN reported.
HOW TO FIGHT IT
As some jurisdictions begin the process of reopening, it’s still crucial people continue to follow social-distancing guidelines to combat the spread of the virus. To help, use Gollan’s tips for fighting caution fatigue.