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Dear Therapist,

I think I have corona fatigue.

In the beginning of the pandemic, I would panic If I had to pump gas or go to the grocery store. Fast forward five months and I find myself going places and doing things that I would have been terrified to do before because I see those around me doing more.

Realistically, I know the spread is worse now, but I still find myself being gutsier. How can I stay in the right frame of mind?

Thanks,

Joe

divider

Hi Joe,

Many people are experiencing caution fatigue related to COVID-19. This is when some begin to exhibit low motivation to follow safety guidelines.   

With the start of the pandemic, many of us reacted to the stress of possibly getting sick through the physical response of fight/flight/freeze, our body’s way of reacting to potential danger. As time went by and we learned more – and talked more – about the virus, that physical response started to wane.  After all, response to stress isn’t supposed to last a long time.    

The virus and its impact have grown to feel more familiar, so some might feel they don’t have to take as many precautions.  

friends eating at a restaurantMost people look to their peers to get approval on actions.  

Whether those actions are being laxer with quarantine guidelines or continuing to limit exposure to the public, guidance from your support group will help you make those decisions for yourself.   

Are you wondering if the risk of going out is worth it because the isolation is affecting your mental/physical health?  

Are you re-engaging in routine activities such as seeing friends and family face-to-face and/or going out to public spaces?   

What do you find yourself doing it to experience a sense of normalcy through it all?   

What I am noticing as I talk to other people is that many are more comfortable with the idea that it isn’t as scary to be around others as it was in the beginningSome are finding themselves ready to go back to their “normal” lives so much so that they’re taking on some increased risks in order to feel as if things are back the way they were. 

Through avoidance (whether subconsciously or consciously), help ourselves feel safe or comfortable when faced with a stressful or anxiety-inducing situation. What that looks like, for example, is engaging in behavior that might look unsafe or risky because the alternative is to worry or live with the anxiety we are experiencing.   

Therefore, avoiding the possibility of risk acts as a protective factor for us. In the long-run, that might produce increased anxiety and it is not the healthiest option, but it does provide some immediate relief.

We all react differently to stressful situations.

Not everyone is going to respond the same way to the threats of COVID-19 or to caution fatigue. You might notice some of your family members and friends telling you that they aren’t ready to go out and be around others just yet.   

It is important to be understanding and accepting of other’s choices.   

Here are some helpful tips to fight caution fatigue and the stress of COVID-19:

We have the potential for healthier outcomes if we engage in healthy distress exercises, such as mindfulness or physical exercise. 

The idea is that we can self-soothe and release stress/anxiety by focusing on the here and now with the practice of mindfulness and deep breathing exercisesBy focusing on the present, we raise our awareness of our surroundings and stay in the moment. Be sure to stay in the moment and be aware of your surroundings.   

You can try:  

Breathing exercises

 

Mindfulness Exercises – Body Scan
During the body scan exercise, you will pay close attention to physical sensations in your body. The goal is to notice and become more aware of your body’s sensations, to stay in the momentTake your time with this exercise

 

Set Standards for Yourself

It is important to explore your level of comfort and safety before exposure. Set standards based on your comfort levels and use that as your guide to navigate exposure. This might help relieve the pressure to do something you aren’t comfortable doing when out in public or engaging with others.   

Find the Middle Ground

Some middle-ground options include outdoor activities such as taking a walk outside, jogging, or riding a bike 

Don’t Forget:

Some basic precautions such aswash your hands, wear a mask, and stay at least six feet apart from others.  

If you or your social support group aren’t ready for in-person interactions, you can engage in your basic need for human contact by seeking connection through video calls or phone conversations, etc. 

Sincerely,

Diana, LMSW

Diana, LMSW, is a Counselor/Psychotherapist with JFS. She works with adults, couples, families, children clients. She has experience working with underserved populations, chronic mental health, immigration, trauma, anxiety, depression, and medication management.

 

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