The dangers of Covid fatigue

Although many people experience physical fatigue during and even after having Covid-19, Covid fatigue generally refers to something that is more on a mental level. A better term for this would be ‘caution fatigue’, where many people report that they are feeling less and less motivated to adhere to guidelines and restrictions (such as physical distancing). This is naturally not a good frame of mind during a pandemic, so why would we feel that way? More importantly, how can we avoid it?

Let’s start with the ‘why’

Anxiety is a natural human response to a threat, typically triggering our fight or flight response. Especially at the start of the pandemic, and especially due to the immense uncertainty we experienced, most of us would have been hyper-alert and careful during those initial months.

However, it is simply not sustainable for our nervous systems to be in such a high-alert condition at all times, so we eventually become desensitised to the danger. As we start to feel less uncertain, we let our guard down.

How to avoid ‘caution fatigue’

Preventing caution fatigue is critical in the fight against Covid-19. This does not, however, mean that we should be in a constant state of stress. As some of our very first articles about the pandemic put it, “Be alert, not anxious”. You can stay alert yet calm by doing the following:

  • Keep up to date with evidence-based figures and facts about Covid-19 so that you can pick up trends and recognise the risks. You can find excellent statistical resources to view worldwide figures by clicking worldometers.info, coronavirus.jhu.edu, and ourworldindata.org; and the latest national figures by clicking coronatracker.com, sacoronavirus.co.za, and worldometers.info.
  • Act with others in mind, not just yourself. Even though you may be young and healthy and not too concerned about contracting this virus, many people around you may be more vulnerable due to their age or comorbidities.
  • Actively manage your stress by getting enough sleep, eating healthily and practising mindfulness – remember that this is ‘a temporary normal’, not ‘the new normal’.