How to Overcome Pandemic Fatigue (COVID-19 Burnout)

What protective measures are usually taken naturally?

The fear of falling ill with coronavirus due to the current contagion statistics is causing people to focus a large amount of their thoughts on this information, which can end up affecting their own mental health by causing anxiety, symptoms of depression or triggering haphephobia (fear to touch or be touched by other people).

This is because, in a pandemic situation, people undergo changes at a psychological level in order to protect them from the risk of contagion , triggering a series of behaviors different from the usual ones, modifying their habits and altering their lifestyle:

Obedience and conformity.

However, this constant sense of threat has been shown to have other effects on the population as well. Based on responses to other diseases over the centuries, it has been observed that fear of contagion leads people to become conservative on issues such as immigration, as well as more conformist and compliant by placing less importance on freedom , which which can lead to more intolerant behavior such as the phenomenon of “the police on the balconies” or influence one’s own political affiliation.

This is because, in addition to associating certain nationalities with the disease (as happened at the beginning with Italy or as it can happen now with the British), there is a tendency to believe that people who do not belong to the own group may be less likely to continue those norms destined to protect the autochthonous population, contributing to spread the disease in a more or less unconscious way.

“During a pandemic, people value obedience and attitudes in accordance with the group more, perceiving rebellious or eccentric behaviors more negatively.”

During a pandemic, risky and rebellious behaviors are perceived more negatively.

Why do these behavioral changes occur?

This may be due to the so-called behavioral immune system , a set of unconscious psychological responses that aim to reduce the possibility of contagion through prevention, that is, by reducing contact with possible pathogens.

These behaviors were developed because the action of the immune system involved a high cost : leaving the body without energy for essential activities such as gathering or raising children. For example, the increase in body temperature during fever represents a 13% increase in energy consumption.

Therefore, the human body was developing other strategies to prevent contagion , p. For example, the sense of smell or taste leads to expel what smells bad or is not clean. In this way, the instinct has also been supported by memory, as it tends to remember with greater force what triggers the disgust, which helps to avoid being exposed to the remembered trigger. So much so, that throughout history numerous rules and rituals fulfill this function of keeping diseases at bay.

“This ‘prevention is better than cure’ is what has kept the ancestors alive, information that is transmitted at the genetic level.”

Conservatism and distrust.

Notably, this behavioral immune system also modified social interactions to minimize the risk of disease spread through instinctive social distancing. This makes moral judgment more strict and conservative in, for example, sexual attitudes . In fact, when one is afraid of catching a disease, it tends to be more severe with respect to non-compliance or behavior of rebellion against authority.

Regarding social relationships, the threat of illness also causes a tendency to distrust more of strangers . In fact, research from McGill University (Canada) found that when you meet someone for the first time, you tend to form a worse impression due to your own feeling of vulnerability to illness.

Such is the level of suspicion that a study published in Science Direct revealed that not only do foreigners tend to be more distrustful for the reasons previously discussed, but they tend to judge socially unattractive people more negatively , mistaking their features for a sign of poor health.

“A relatively moderate change in certain attitudes is to be expected, although not a great change.”

In this sense, it is important to note that some people have a more sensitive behavioral immune system , thus being more suspicious and careful than the average population. However, these positions could have escalated.

The fear of catching COVID-19 makes us more suspicious and careful.

Personal strategies to combat pandemic fatigue.

Next, a series of strategies are proposed to combat pandemic fatigue, that is, the gradual demotivation that leads to disregarding the protection recommendations.

Be aware that the pandemic is not a parenthesis.

It is important to face the pandemic taking into account its temporality, whose expiration will not be soon despite the hope of vaccines.

Normalize what you are feeling.

We must detect harmful thoughts in order to put them in perspective. Sometimes you can feel guilty about being invaded by negative emotions when your personal situation is not that bad compared to other people’s. Giving room to emotion by allowing yourself to feel emotions without judging them is the first step in learning to accept them and not get stuck in them.

“It is not about denying or avoiding fear, but neither is it about feeding it: learning to live with these emotions will increase your own resilience.”

Live the present.

There are people who, as a result of the pandemic, have postponed their vital projects as if the pandemic had a certain expiration date. Being trapped in nostalgia prevents progress by not adjusting plans to current possibilities; on the contrary, accepting and adapting to the current situation helps improve psychological well-being.

Do not allow fear to dominate your life.

The brain is made up of what is known as the reptilian (instinctive) brain, the limbic (emotional) brain, and the neocortex (rational) brain. Faced with constant warning messages, the reptilian brain makes the body aware of the existence of an invisible enemy, which it wishes to control with the help of the neocortex.

To prevent anxiety caused by the fear of contagion sustained over time, it is useful to follow the recommended prevention measures.

“Complying with the rules established during the pandemic alleviates the uncertainty and concern that causes doubt about how to act to reduce the chances of contagion.”

Find hobbies compatible with the situation.

Many of the people who go to therapy report that they can no longer do all the leisure activities they used to do (stay for weekends, travel …), which makes them feel sad and increases their stress and discomfort.

Hobbies prevent COVID-19 burnout during the pandemic.

It is important to learn to enjoy other types of activities that you are not used to (eg crafts or play sports outdoors) and to enjoy the small pleasures of everyday life.

Keep in touch with loved ones.

Despite social distancing, digital tools make it possible to maintain the bond with those close to you. Sensing the support of loved ones helps maintain some emotional stability, which is especially important in these uncertain times.

“Regarding resuming social life, after the first wave, when the risk of contagion was lower, many people reported that they did not feel like leaving home. In this situation, it is advisable to reflect on whether it is because one wants to enjoy more time with the family or whether it is because of fear of contagion ”.

Try to be more positive.

There is no greater trigger for catastrophic and self-destructive thoughts than positivity. Seeing the positive side of life and maintaining hope helps to manage negative emotions, avoiding aggravating one’s mental health.

Avoid over-reporting.

Although it is advisable to stay informed, abusing information can lead to anguish and anxiety. For this reason, it is advisable to manage the consumption of information by setting a time limit to watch the news (one hour or less a day), as well as selecting a reliable source to avoid getting lost in the incessant search for information without actually disconnecting.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle habit.

Having an adequate diet, sleeping eight hours a day, doing moderate exercise and pursuing enriching hobbies will help maintain the physical and emotional balance necessary to cope with the pandemic. In addition, a healthy lifestyle strengthens the immune system itself.

Seek professional help.

Ignoring your own feelings or suppressing them will not make them go away. When you feel emotionally overwhelmed, it is advisable to go to a psychologist to accompany you in those difficult moments and to provide you with various tools to optimize your emotional management.

COVID-19 burnout may require professional help.

Social strategies to curb pandemic fatigue by government agencies.

During Christmas, the media has exposed numerous cases of young people breaking the restrictions to go to party. This is just one of many situations that has highlighted the need to modify government actions to prevent pandemic fatigue. Here are some possible strategies:

Improve risk communication.

The Government has the duty to deliver consistent and truthful information to the public so that they do not lose their trust in the authorities, which leads to non-compliance with protection measures.

Likewise, the information must be clearly exposed and adapted to the different population groups, so that the different groups feel identified and adopt a responsible attitude.

Given that susceptibility to the disease and the perception of severity depend mainly on the information provided, it is essential to create dissemination campaigns to adopt the necessary prevention and control measures.

“The lack of transparency gives rise to a feeling of emotional fraud, generating distrust that worsens adherence to protection measures.”

Encourage responsibility and not just obedience or fear.

Obedience, in addition to being less effective in the long term, carries with it numerous emotional and social costs. Promoting responsibility instead of fear will make the population maintain long-term protection measures.

Establish health measures for the prevention and control of the pandemic.

The widespread use of PCR and antigen tests, as well as securing medical supplies is essential to guarantee safety and reduce fear in the population. On the other hand, mass vaccination, the availability of medical supplies and having a healthcare network capable of absorbing the affected population are important factors in controlling the uncertainty generated by the pandemic.

Take measures aimed at reducing the risk of worker exposure to coronavirus.

Given that essential workers cannot afford the protections that teleworkers do have, it is important that they have all the resources available to be able to work as PPE (personal protective equipment) without feeling exposed to contagion as occurred during the first wave.

Security measures are necessary during the pandemic.

Create supportive policies to facilitate quarantine.

Certain groups do not have sufficient financial support to be able to afford to quarantine without difficulties or even to buy masks. The financial support, as well as the material to be able to adopt the necessary protection measures will help to stop the spread of the coronavirus by reducing the vulnerability of these people and, therefore, that of all.

“Lowering the price of masks or doing massive tests (eg in schools and universities) are measures that, in addition to increasing the protection of the population, provide citizens with confidence about their own safety.”

Invest in mental health.

Mental health is the foundation of wellness. Unfortunately, the health system does not have enough professionals to meet the current social demand, which has made some people end up resorting to a medication that they do not really need and that does not promote adherence to protection measures. To reduce pandemic fatigue, it may be necessary to seek the help of a psychologist.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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