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August 6, 2020

We are all tired of hearing about COVID-19. And, it’s not uncommon to feel drained from watching the never-ending news reports, statistics and graphs, and wondering when life will be normal again.

Everyone knows the basics: wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands. So, why is it hard to keep doing these things as time goes on? If you are frustrated with how long the pandemic is lasting, or just generally feeling “over it,” you are not alone.

It’s a real condition called “caution fatigue.”

After months of dealing with the virus and waiting for life to return to “normal,” it may be tempting to let down your guard, but it’s too soon to stop being careful. At Memorial Hermann, we understand how caution fatigue can take a toll on both your physical and mental health. We are here for you with suggestions for combating the exhaustion so you can get back on track.

What is caution fatigue?

It’s a natural reaction to prolonged stress that leaves us feeling worn out and less motivated to adhere to safety guidelines.

At the beginning of the pandemic, most people didn’t mind taking the extra precautions and worked vigilantly to stay home to slow the spread of the virus. It was new and unknown, and most of us gave our best effort to do the right things to flatten the curve. As months have progressed, for some, the sense of urgency and the energy to do our part has begun to wane. We have become impatient with warnings and lack of progress–this impatience often de-emphasizes the risk, and we begin to bend the original safety precautions we were once so serious about.

With no vaccine or widespread treatment plan in place yet, it’s important to remain cautious–things like forgetting to wash your hands or not wearing a mask to a birthday party still have consequences and can contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

Understand the risks and benefits of your actions.

We are bombarded with daily, evolving news reports and social media posts, and it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. An excess of information can make it difficult to understand what a true threat is and whether what you’re doing is enough to address it. And, it’s easy to get complacent and think that just because you or someone you love haven’t gotten sick yet, you won’t in the future.

We must remember that despite the ever-changing information that is available, the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 is real. Easing up on safety precautions can negatively affect everyone: you, your loved ones and the community.

Think back to the beginning of the pandemic when you may have been more careful about leaving your home and interacting with other people. Continuing that level of caution is the best way to avoid becoming sick and slow the spread of the virus.

Reframe and re-energize for the new normal.

Adapting your mindset and creating a new normal routine can reduce caution fatigue.

Your new normal should, at a minimum, include three basic safety measures: wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands.

Think of these things as the foundation of today’s daily life, and re-create your regular routine around them. Things like working, staying socially connected, and exercising can still happen while practicing these safety precautions.

Break the cycle of caution fatigue.

Start with small steps. Instead of worrying about how the pandemic will unfold in the months to come, focus on today. Here are some ideas to foster a more positive outlook in your daily routine:

Focus on good health.

When your body is healthy, you are better able to handle added stress and potential symptoms of the disease, if it is spread to you.

  • Eat nutritious foods, focusing on lean meats, and fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise daily
  • Establish a regular sleep schedule
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Stay connected to friends and family

Practice self-care.

Relaxation techniques can improve your mood and restore motivation. Consider things like yoga, meditation, mindfulness and breathing exercises.

Staying socially connected is another important part of caring for yourself. Reach out to family and friends through phone calls, text messages, social media and video conferencing. Simply taking the time to talk to others goes a long way toward making things feel more normal.

Demonstrate gratitude.

It may seem simple but acknowledging the pleasant parts of your day and your life can improve your whole outlook. Find things to be thankful for, even if you have to force yourself a little. If you are healthy, then start there. Be grateful for your health, your family and your friends.

Care for others.

Looking after the needs of others is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. By adhering to public-health recommendations, you are doing your part to help others in the community and support the health care system’s efforts to save lives.

Try to look at mask wearing and social distancing in a different light. Instead of viewing those efforts as tedious, see them as ways to join together with a community that wants to get back to normal life just as much as you do.

Keep moving forward... we will get there.

While we are all desperate to return to “normal,” it’s important to continue practicing caution to avoid back-sliding and further spread of the disease. Practicing self-care, having important conversations with friends and family as well as shifting your mindset can help deter the mental and physical effects of the pandemic, keeping you safe and healthy.

We are part of the way through a marathon. We’re tired, we’re frustrated, and we just want to be done with this. But, the sooner we commit to slowing the spread of the virus, the sooner we can have our lives back. Let’s finish the job.

The information in this article was accurate as of August 6, 2020.

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