Quarantine Fatigue Has Stopped People From Being Vigilant in Protecting Themselves Against COVID-19

June 9, 2020
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    After months of disinfecting our hands and groceries, many have found themselves less and less likely to do so as the severity of the pandemic seems to wind down.

    It's a phenomenon called "caution fatigue," and it happens when you've been vigilant for so long that the precautions you take to keep yourself safe seem to wear off a bit.

    When threats are new and urgent, your brain is more likely to take the appropriate steps towards keeping yourself out of harm's way - but that urgency dies down after you've been doing it for a few months, CNN reports.

    Jacqueline Gollan, who has two professorships at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says caution fatigue "occurs when people show low motivation or energy to comply with safety guidelines."

    She adds, "It's reflected when we become impatient with warnings, or we don't believe the warnings to be real or relevant, or we de-emphasize the actual risk. And in doing that, we then bend rules or stop safety behaviors like washing hands, wearing masks, and social distancing."

    The outcome is due to chronic stress, decreases sensitivity, and an inability to process new information, CNN reports.

    Eric Zillmer, a professor of neuropsychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia, says that caution fatigue can happen when there's too much information to process. The result is a halt to the information processing centers in our brains.

    "Almost all of America is being confronted with an ambiguous, complex problem-solving situation. We've never been through anything like this, so it's ambiguous," he explains.

    One of the ways you can combat these reactions is by reducing your stress and practicing self-care.

    "If I have to go out and survive, I may pay less attention to my health and those safety precautions, because I'm not focused on that," Gollan explains.

    By focusing on the rewards you'll get out of protecting yourself against the virus, curbing caution fatigue will get easier and easier.

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