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When Covid-19 first swept across the world, it brought a considerable degree of worry and fear. But as the days go by, a lot of people start to be less cautious of health restrictions; many have grown tired and decided that the pandemic is over— this might be a sign of ‘Quarantine Fatigue’

If calendars could speak, it would be a safe bet that they too would have lost track of the date since Covid-19 quarantines were first imposed in different parts of the world. At the outset of the virus, people strictly maintained social distancing, washed their hands excessively, and even wore two to three masks in hopes that these will protect them better. 

At present time, many have sloughed off the health restrictions brought by the pandemic—people flock to restaurants, parks, and even host their own high-risk events at home. According to Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine professor Jacqueline Gollan, this unintentional phenomenon may be linked to ‘Quarantine Fatigue’. 

Quarantine fatigue occurs when “people show low motivation or energy to comply with safety guidelines,” Gollan said in an interview with CNN. “It is reflected when we become impatient with warnings, or we don't believe the warnings to be real or relevant, or we de-emphasise the actual risk, and in doing that, we then bend rules or stop safety behaviours like washing hands, wearing masks and social distancing.”

Gollan added that this mental state has already been observed in previous or everyday life situations, such as when one “ignores an alarm of some sort and don’t take it seriously because he or she has heard it before.”

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In a separate interview, Jessi Gold, M.D., MS, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, further explained that quarantine fatigue is an existential feeling of exhaustion or simply just being “over it.”

For Gold, more people choose to brave the pandemic if it means that this will quench their thirst for human interaction. “When people have been removed from socialising, there is a desire to return to companionship, friendship, and being around others. In those circumstances, people will sometimes weigh risks ‘Will I contract the illness?’ and benefits ‘Can this event make me happier, decrease my loneliness, end my depression?’ and the longer the pandemic goes on, the more people are choosing to say the benefits are worth the risks,” she explained.

“In other words, the longer people are lonely, or sad, or anxious, or away from others, the more likely they are to say they want to get out and do something to fix it—even if they might risk contracting coronavirus,” she added.

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Quarantine fatigue is also a mental health issue that the World Health Organisation (WHO) acknowledges. In its published report, the group disclosed that the phenomenon is caused by the longevity of the pandemic situation.

"Such demotivation is natural and expected at this stage of a crisis. At the beginning of a crisis, most people are able to tap into their surge capacity- a collection of mental and physical adaptive systems that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations," WHO said. However, when dire circumstances drag on, they have to adopt a different style of coping, and fatigue and demotivation may be the result." 

How To Overcome Quarantine Fatigue

There are series of ways that quarantine fatigue can manifest itself. Here are various ways to acknowledge the problem while being aware of the strict health guidelines imposed in your respective cities. 

  • Remember that Covid-19 still exists. There is no other way to put it. The pandemic is far from over and the only way to finally put an end to this ordeal is to abide by the health guidelines (social distancing, minimise going out for leisure, wear face masks). 
  • Understand what motivates quarantine fatigue. According to WHO, it is important to understand the “barriers” faced by people demotivated by the quarantine. “Understanding who is experiencing demotivation and the barriers and drivers impacting their ability or willingness to take up protective behaviours allows decision-makers to segment and tailor actions to their particular needs. Barriers and drivers can exist within various areas and may relate to individual capability or motivation, or to the social, cultural, structural or legislative environment,” the organisation said. 
  • Gently remind people. Breaching Covid-19 guidelines is inevitable for many people and WHO suggests that the only way to prevent them is by “allowing them to live their lives but reduce risks.”

“A harm-reduction approach recognises that stopping behaviours entirely may be difficult but reducing the harms associated with these behaviours may be possible. With this in mind, a harm-reduction approach encourages a spectrum of acceptable behaviours,” the organisation shared

“When presented with all-or-nothing scenarios and daunting standards of success, people are more likely to give up easily and revert to very risky behaviour. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, this may take the form of throwing a large party because not being social at all has come to feel unsustainable. While small-group socialising may not be 100 per cent ideal, it is preferable to a reactive burst of large-group activities,” it added. 

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