After months of quarantine and lock down, a combination of warmer weather and the gradual reopening of the economy has more Americans abandoning the #StayHome movement and venturing out for the first time since mid-March. Most of us know social distancing is essential. But a collective desire to get back to work and some sense of normalcy has some of us breaking the pandemic rules. Whether it’s quarantine fatigue or economic panic setting in, it has people starting to buck the guidelines. After all, staying home is stressful, boring, and for many, financially devastating.
During your first few weeks of lock down, you were probably able to accomplish projects around the house, catch up on TV, spend time with your significant other or your kids. Like most of us, you were probably enthusiastic about this “gift of time” at first. But now you miss your coworkers, you are scraping the bottom of the barrel Netflix shows, and you have decluttered your closet at least ten times. Cue the desire to get out.
No end in sight
The weather is not the only reason you feel the need to abandon most precautions and attend social gatherings. COVID-19 is not like most other disasters we've experienced.
There is no clear end in sight. It is not a flood where the water recedes, you mourn, and then you rebuild. We do not know when, or if, this pandemic will end. Our optimism starts to wane, and we can no longer maintain crisis mode.
Furthermore, during times of crisis, it is our instinct to stand together. To hug, to be a shoulder to cry on, to stand together during a vigil, and participate in fundraising activities. Quarantine doesn’t allow for any such activities, and thus, we feel a deep human disconnect. People, by nature, are social creatures and thrive on relationships.
You probably have noticed that in recent weeks you see more people attending small events, in public without a mask or traveling out of state. You may feel tempted to assume it’s because they don’t care who they get sick or that they are reckless, but this regression from social distancing has a name: Quarantine Fatigue.
Quarantine fatigue may look different for each person, but overall, it’s defined as “exhaustion associated with the new restrictive lifestyle that’s been adopted to slow the spread of COVID-19.” There is no correct way to feel right now, and we are all experiencing a full range of emotions. Quarantine exhaustion symptoms can include (but are not limited to):
- Feeling tense, anxious, or irritable
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Loss of motivation
- Social withdrawal
- Receding fear
Most of us are experiencing some form of quarantine fatigue. Parks and some restaurants are open, more people are out and about, and Americans are taking full advantage of it.
The fatigue is especially understandable among people who have remained healthy or live in areas of low COVID-19 confirmed cases or hospitalizations. The rising death toll may seem abstract instead of a reality. However, fatigue could have devastating consequences.
While Quarantine fatigue is entirely understandable, it’s important to manage. Remember, the virus doesn’t care if you’re bored or you miss your friends. Most public health officials agree that a speedy return to our former normal could be disastrous. America is confirming at least 20,000 new cases a day, and deaths continue to occur. Those numbers will increase if we hurry back to social gatherings and abandon social distancing, routine cleaning and proper hand hygiene.
How can we manage the impulse to return to our pre-COVID-19 lives? Mitigating risks.
Differentiate between low-risk and high-risk activities. Not all activities carry the same risk of transmission. Enclosed crowded settings with prolonged contact carry a much higher risk than casual outdoor interaction. Redesign outdoor and indoor spaces to eliminate crowding and close contact. This allows people to live their life while lowering (not eliminating) the risk of transmission. In short, learn how to live life during a pandemic.
Managing Quarantine fatigue
We all will experience quarantine fatigue differently. Having healthy and sustainable ways to cope is critical to mental health. Below are expert tips on how to deal with quarantine fatigue.
- Be kind to yourself. After all, you are working through a disaster for which there is no guidebook.
- Maintain a routine. This one is pretty obvious, but we could use a gentle reminder. Sticking to a routine when life is uncertain will have a positive effect on mental health. Sleep and wake at the same hour and incorporate physical activity.
- Validate negative feelings. Resist the urge to push aside your feelings of stress, frustration, and powerlessness. Acknowledging these feelings to ourselves reduces the power these feelings might have over you. Consider sharing these feelings with a friend or professional.
- Set manageable goals. Identify something within your control that provides a sense of accomplishment and go for it. Try a new recipe or clean out a closet.
- Find and practice new forms of self-care. We all have our go-to way of taking care of ourselves, but with increased downtime, now’s a great time to experiment with meditation or journaling.
A word from Safetec
While patience and vigilance are becoming more challenging the longer we endure lock downs and restrictions, staying the course will get us through the coming months. If you feel the urge to break social distancing guidelines, try to engage in lower-risk activities. You are allowed to grieve your B.C. (Before COVID) life. We all have had to endure significant changes that have brought on a lot of grief.
Safetec wants to remind you to be kind to yourself and others. We urge you to continue to practice proper hand hygiene and routine cleaning of high touch surfaces. Continue to socially distance when possible and maintain six feet of separation when out in public.
While this is a stressful period for everyone, we will always remain committed to safety and infection prevention. The Safetec team is dedicated to our distributors and those who need our products. COVID-19 is the defining challenge of our generation, and success will depend on our collective focus on safety and infection prevention today, tomorrow, and beyond. Stay safe.