As lockdowns drag on, concern is growing that people will start ignoring social distancing rules, leading to an increase in the risk of infection and the number of COVID-19 cases.
Photos of crowded beaches and parks across the country are graphic illustrations that Americans are getting tired of staying at home and risking the health of themselves and others by ignoring the common sense reality of social distancing that’s keeping us safe.
According to Time, some states are experiencing new surges in coronavirus cases after initial declines as a result of people breaking the rules and taking unnecessary chances.
Jacqueline Gollan, as associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, has coined a name for this phenomenon based on her years of research. She calls it “caution fatigue.”
Gollan compares social distancing to a battery. When restrictions were first announced, people were fully charged with the desire to flatten the curve. Weeks later, motivation has dipped and people are feeling drained, according to Time. The battery is losing its power.
Here are her tips for fighting caution fatigue:
- Take care of your mental and physical self. That means getting enough sleep, not drinking too much, following a balanced diet, exercising and staying as socially connected as possible.
- Reframe risks and benefits. A term like “flattening the curve” may be hard to relate to, but if you think about how your behavior affects your chances of getting sick and thus spreading the disease to those around you, it will have more personal impact.
- Rebuild your routine. Creating a daily routine can help you grapple with the new reality. Focus on the immediate future and not on how long you will be quarantined. Make time for exercising and socializing, says Gollan.
- Make altruism a habit. Remember that in keeping yourself safe, you are also helping others and the community at large. “There’s something powerful about hope, compassion, caring for others, altruism,” Gollan told Time. “Those values help people battle caution fatigue.”
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