Caution Fatigue: Let’s Fight It Because Covid Isn’t Going Away Anytime Soon.

If you’ve noticed friends no longer disinfecting their hands as much or family members becoming more lenient with mask wearing or toward unnecessary trips outside, you’re not alone. This unintentional phenomenon is “caution fatigue” and it’s a universal phenomena.

We may be experiencing caution fatigue when we begin bending rules or stop safety behaviours like washing hands, wearing masks and social distancing. Caution fatigue is ignoring an alarming situation because we are desensitized by repeated warnings. Chronic stress, decreased sensitivity to warnings and not processing new information are some of the reasons for this mental state.

2020 was a science fiction movie that became real. When the pandemic hit, we panicked then pulled ourselves together. Collectively, we changed the way we work, educate our children, shop, and socialize. Putting spontaneity on the back burner, we reworked all our plans for the year. We followed the rules — wore masks, sanitized our hands, and stood in queues outside grocery stories 6 feet apart. When our loved ones got sick, we made telemedicine appointments and consulted physicians on video calls. All the while praying that everything would work out.

Amid the crisis, we rediscovered our kindness and compassion — we bought groceries for our neighbors, offered to find jobs for strangers, cheered frontline workers, and found new ways to educate our children. We created and adapted to the new normal. It was the end of the world as we knew it.. The fear of the unknown and the high-stress emergency situation kept us vigilant and on guard. We willingly distanced ourselves from the people and events that nourished us and stayed home. Living in an ever-changing world with uncertainty isn’t easy. After a year of living with the pandemic, many of us are beginning to experience the emotional and mental fatigue of living in a chronic situation.

Mental health experts point out that living in a situation of great uncertainty and chronic stress is exhausting maybe we underestimate how severe this may be. People are struggling with feelings of being depleted or experiencing periods of burnout. Dr. Shoja from Urgent Care Hawaii has been consulting patients via telemedicine appointments for the past year. She says, “Caution fatigue and low motivation to follow safety guidelines is natural. We have zero experience dealing with a global pandemic. Caution fatigue is a universal experience. We must recognize it and develop effective coping strategies because it significantly impacts the speed at which COVID-19 spreads.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, our concerns for our families and friends motivated us to adhere to recommendations from healthcare experts. As the virus spread rapidly, discouragement and a longing for life to return to normal weighed heavy on our hearts.This happens with all the big changes. The bigger the change, the greater the impact on our lives and the absence of a clear pathway to resolution, the harder it is to sustain over the long term. It is too early to give up, friends. We are in the messy middle of a global pandemic is far from over, as evidenced by the new strain of this virus discovered in the UK.

Here are five tips you can use to overcome COVID-19 caution fatigue:

1. Stay Connected with family and friends: Resisting isolation and monotony is key to strengthening resilience. Develop a social bubble with people you trust. A social bubble is a small group of friends (3–5) who practice social distancing and masking and do not take risks of gathering in large groups. Encourage everyone in your social bubble to get tested regularly. This simple precaution provides confirmation and assurance that you are carrying the Corona virus. Covid-19 testing in Hawaii is available in all hospitals and urgent care clinics. Schedule regular calls with family and friends via video. Take the time to plan the interaction for the calls- play games, organize an online book club, or learn something together.

2. Get outside ideally with others: Take a walk or jog as often as you can. Other alternatives include socially distanced outdoor dance or yoga or pilates classes. Exercise and sunshine are a powerful tool in uplifting your mood and maintaining motivation to remain vigilant.

3. Stay in the present: While we have no way of knowing how long the pandemic will last, there are hopeful signs on the horizon, such as the vaccine. Bring your attention to the things you can control within the present moment. You can choose to schedule regular telemedicine appointments to check in with your physician or your psychologist. Covid-19 testing in Hawaii is readily available, so that is another option to maintain a regular check on your health. Mindfulness, meditation, and breathing exercises are being effectively used by many to stay in the present moment.

4. Be gentle with yourself: Since there is no playbook for dealing with our current situation, we are all making the rules as we go. Take the time you need. Be gentle with yourself. Create a list of the most important things in your life and find creative ways to connect with them.

5. Better manage stress: Consider this time as the “temporary normal” not the new normal. This perspective helps us realize that this situation will pass. The more we focus on keeping things in perspective, the better we are at managing stress. Focus on a good diet, get enough sleep, stay active, and maintain a routine to boost your emotional and mental health.

Caution fatigue can hit the most careful of social distance adherents and mask wearers. We are in this together and together, we will succeed in combatting this virus. Human beings have evolved and survived harsh conditions through cooperation. The process of adapting to Covid-19 is just beginning, so this might very well be a turning point in human evolution.