Subtle signs that you have ‘quarantine fatigue’ and how to deal with it



  • Many Americans feel like going back to their pre-pandemic social habits that have been described as “quarantine fatigue.”
  • The phenomenon is exacerbated for many by the good weather and a false sense of security if they live in a less populated place and have remained healthy.
  • But quarantine fatigue can lead to poor decisions that can negatively affect public health and the trajectory of the coronavirus.
  • The first signs you have may include irritability and lack of motivation, but it can be controlled.
  • Visit the Insider home page for more stories.

After nearly two months sheltering in his place, Tony Lemieux, a social psychologist in Atlanta, took a much-needed bike trip with his emergency medicine clinical friend and their families.

The groups wore masks and kept separate from each other and other recreationists, but were surprised by the number of people who passed by without taking the same precautions.

The clinician said he would not be surprised if the scene and others like it attracted many more people to his hospital with COVID-19, the disease causing the new coronavirus. Such patients, Lemieux recalls his friend saying, “are some of the sickest people I’ve ever seen in my career.”

Similar scenarios have unfolded across the United States as some cities begin to lift restrictions, the weather improves, and Americans become increasingly restless. Cell phone location data has shown that compared to mid-March, people started taking more trips, traveling further, and staying home less beginning in mid-April.

Lei Zhang, director of the Maryland Transportation Institute at the University of Maryland, College Park, who is leading the research, called the phenomenon “quarantine fatigue.”

Even if you’re not fully aware, unlike “COVID parties” that blatantly defy the guidelines or unmasked protests, the trend is troubling because it can lead to a resurgence of the virus that is still killing about 3,000 people per day and it is forecast to lead to about 135,000 COVID-19 deaths in the US. USA in August.

“There is a disconnect” between people’s real and perceived risk of contracting or spreading the virus, Lemieux, who heads the Institute for Global Studies at Georgia State University, told Insider. As a viral tweet put it, “It is very American to decide that we are bored with COVID and therefore it’s over.”

Here we show you how not to be a victim of poor decision making that can finally make you, your loved ones and the community sick.

People rest and enjoy the day in Central Park while maintaining the rules of social distancing, during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Manhattan district of New York City, USA. USA, May 2, 2020. REUTERS / Eduardo Munoz

The spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York

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The phenomenon is aggravated by good weather, financial problems and mixed information.

The fatigue of quarantine is quite understandable.

Some parks and beaches are open, restaurants offer cocktails to go, and Americans take advantage of it, as they should, only occasionally and responsibly.

“The general principle should be: outside is better than inside; open is better than closed; less is better than more people; and stay away from sick people,” said Dr. Erich Anderer, neurosurgeon and founding member of the North Brooklyn Runners. I previously told Insider.

But ultimately, Zhang said, “when people go out more and go to more places and stay there longer,” the risk of spreading the virus increases.

Fatigue is especially understandable among people who have remained healthy or who do not live in areas with overflowing hospital traffic and 24-hour screaming sirens. To them, the news of the rising death toll may seem more like an abstract concept than an urgent reality, Lemieux said.

“It is this strange abstract thing that is happening to other people elsewhere, not to me, not here,” Lemieux said.

The economy also matters. With unemployment rates at their highest, for many Americans, the threats of having to pay rent or even get food on the table are “more immediate and prominent” than the pandemic’s long-term public health threat, Lemieux said.

And, mixed and misinformation, ranging from changing tips on wearing masks to full-blown conspiracy theories, can lead people to raise their hands to stay home and do whatever they want.

“When there are competing narratives and information, people will lean in the direction of what they wanted to do anyway, or they will do things that will reduce that dissonance,” Lemieux said.

Not all signs of fatigue are obvious.

The restlessness that can lead you to a more relaxed posture toward physical detachment can manifest itself subtly.

“There are many potential maladjustment responses that we are seeing in various ways, and some of them are more modest” than, say, domestic violence or substance abuse, Lemiuex said. “Did you yell at someone today and don’t know why you did it?” Blame it on quarantine fatigue.

Melody Wilding, a social worker who trains people on success in the workplace, told Business Insider that she is also listening to people who struggle with motivation. A month ago, they planned and prepared one week of meals at a time, finally cleaning their closet and vowing to show their bosses that they are great remote workers.

Now, they struggle to do the dishes, care less about their children’s on-screen habits, and cannot be fired at work. “People are running low,” he said.

Her quarantine fatigue can also present as loneliness, another very real health threat in an era of physical isolation.

“If we think of loneliness as an adaptive response like hunger and thirst, it is this unpleasant state that motivates us to seek social connections just as hunger motivates us to search for food,” said study lead author Julianne Holt -Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, previously told Business Insider.

Of course, he said, in a situation like a pandemic that requires you to reduce or eliminate your face-to-face contact, you need to endure that discomfort to avoid more dangerous immediate effects.

Zoom class


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To stop bad decision making, remember that the virus does not care if it is bored

No matter how understandable, it is important to manage quarantine fatigue without giving in to it in potentially risky ways. “The virus doesn’t care if we are bored,” said Lemieux.

“It’s the classic psychological problem of favoring short-term pleasure over long-term benefit,” added Wilding. To cope, she tells clients that “it’s about making decisions to make future decisions for the person you want to be, not the person you have been.”

Experts also reiterate coping mechanisms for dealing with coronavirus-related anxiety: try to establish a routine, eat healthy and find ways to move daily, seek virtual therapeutic help, communicate with loved ones via video or phone calls. and help less fortunate people.

And while you may want to consider taking up a new hobby, it’s also important not to expect too much from you right now, Lemieux said. Doing everything possible to keep you, your family, and your community safe is enough.

“We have to be a little easy on ourselves right now to do the best we can, but we recognize that there is this uncertainty and a cloud that can thwart best intentions,” he said. “Give that space due.”

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