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Ways to counter COVID fatigue

We are about to enter our ninth month of a worldwide pandemic. So far, 2020 has been one for the record books. Uncontrollable fires in the West, hurricane after hurricane in the South, record unemployment, racial injustice and unrest, contentious campaigns and a government that cannot put down their party flags to see the desperation of its citizens and give us the relief we all deserve. Of course, we can’t forget the more than 230,000 Americans who will not be with their families when this is over.

Now, as we are bracing for the next wave of COVID-19, the seasonal flu as well as being cocooned in our homes, we are all becoming aware of a new phenomenon labeled by The World Health Organization as Pandemic Fatigue or Exhaustion. They define the term as “demotivation to follow recommended protective behaviors, emerging gradually over time and affected by a number of emotions, experiences and perceptions.” The organization goes on to say it is a “natural response” to a prolonged global health crisis, especially at this stage. It manifests itself in an unwillingness to follow guidelines and recommendations, whether social distancing with friends or mask-wearing, a decreased effort to remain informed about the pandemic and the position of lower risk perceptions related to COVID-19.”

By now, there aren’t too many who still believe it will go away on Nov. 4. Many of us have been directly or indirectly affected by the virus on a personal level and know the devastation it has on lives and the body. We are at war with this invisible enemy and right now it seems to be beating us. I’m not talking about just the lives lost and those sickened, but the livelihood of millions and the mental toll it is taking on all of us. It has been detrimental to all of us that this virus has become political when it should be non-partisan and we should be following the scientists who have dedicated their lives for this very thing from the start.

Kaye Hermanson, UC Davis Health psychologist in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, tells us that there are things we can do to not succumb to the ravages of Pandemic Fatigue —

— Exercise: There are endorphins that are released in the brain when we exercise.

— Talk: Pick up the phone, find a group that you can Zoom with or FaceTime. Holding things inside is never a good thing because they eventually will come out and usually not in a positive way.

— Constructive thinking: We cannot change the situation, but we can adjust our thinking. Be compassionate with yourself and others and remind yourself, “I’m doing the best I can.”

— Mindfulness and gratitude: “Try being in the moment. You’re right here, in this chair, breathing and looking around. We put ourselves through a lot of unnecessary misery projecting into the future or ruminating about the past. For now, just take life day by day.”

We can do this. We can flatten the curve by following the science. I’m not ready to be done with life; I consider this a break from the life I love in order to restore the life I love and realizing it might look different. Mask up everyone. We can do this.

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