At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone thought it would be short-lived - a few weeks of staying home and taking major steps to control the spread of the virus; distancing from our family and close friends, ceasing work or working from home, learning to wear masks, washing our hands properly, and adjusting to the challenge of isolation and an abrupt stop to our normal way of life. What we thought would be a few weeks has quickly turned into months and the reality that we will have to get used to a “new normal” is setting in.
You may be experiencing an array of emotions and feeling stressed, irritable, and anxious. You may have noticed that your eating habits have changed or are changing, you may not be sleeping well, you might be feeling unmotivated and less productive, or you may be experiencing racing thoughts or feeling on edge. All of these emotions are valid and can be expected during periods of high stress, which can be brought about during a global pandemic.
What is Quarantine Fatigue?
At this point in the pandemic you may be experiencing Quarantine Fatigue. Quarantine fatigue is similar to Caution Fatigue where people may show low motivation or energy to adhering to safety guidelines that are in place. Adjusting our lives to all of these new guidelines can be draining as they have changed the way we live our lives. The fear that is also caused by the reality that a virus can cause us harm prevents us from going outside or doing the things we would normally do.
Fear can be an emotion that keeps us motivated to follow safety guidelines – the fear of the unknown, the fear of getting the virus, the fear of losing a loved one, or the fear of missing out on events you have planned in the future. After some time however, this fear mitigates – it’s not as strong as it was at the beginning of the Pandemic, and this leads us to be less strict with ourselves when following guidelines. It may even cause us to place judgement on those not wearing personal protective equipment or not keeping their physical distance.
The good news is that restrictions are being lifted all around the world as the number of new cases continues to decrease. This is very exciting for many of us as we may feel like we are slowly getting back to normal. That being said, it is important that we keep up with safety measures to ensure we continue to protect ourselves and others. It's also important to remember not to judge others for their actions as we are all in a similar situation but are experiencing it in very different ways. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and let’s continue to work with each other to get through this.
In an article published in The Atlantic, Professor Julia Marcus compared the ‘Stay at Home Campaign’ to the ‘Don’t Have Sex Campaign’ and she mentions how public-health campaigns like these are “a missed opportunity to support lower-risk behaviours that are more sustainable in the long term.” These campaigns do not allow people to learn low-risk behaviours that can be maintained over a longer period. Rather these campaigns try to enforce guidelines that set limitations on individuals living their normal lives and these guidelines are not sustainable long-term.
One of the best things we can do for ourselves throughout this time is to focus on self-care, health and things that bring us joy. Life may not get back to “normal” for some time – we need to take action to bring pleasure into our lives during a time of uncertainty. Continue to keep up with habits that maintain your low risk, if you are unsure about something ask for guidance or seek out more information, and most importantly remember that any small change in behavior can have a large impact.