How To Recognize & Stay Safe From ‘Quarantine Fatigue’

Photo: getty
How To Recognize & Stay Safe from ‘Quarantine Fatigue’
Health And Wellness

We're all a little tired of being stuck inside.

What is "caution fatigue" or "quarantine fatigue"?

It is now many months after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, suggesting that everyone put themselves in self-quarantine.

And  sadly, it seems we are no further ahead (in fact, we're behind), even after you've done the following faithfully...

  • Honored "stay at home" orders, only going out for essentials.
  • Struggled with a reduced income, or have even been laid off or furloughed indefinitely. 
  • Tried hard to look business-like in your pajamas, if you've been lucky enough to be able to work from home. 
  • Coped with being cooped up 24-7.
  • Struggled with homeschooling your kids.
  • Shared limited, precious home space with family and pets.
  • Cancelled big life events, like birthdays, weddings, and funerals.
  • Missed attending our favorite live events, such as sports games, concerts, theatre performances, museums, restaurants, and bars.
  • Learned to wash our hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Followed unclear and changing guidelines about safety and when to wear a mask.
  • Limited travel to near home, social distancing with people outside of our immediate household. (Do you recall when they changed these guidelines from "social" to "physical distancing," because we humans need human social contact?)
  • Embraced Zoom meetings and the like to help you keep in touch — at least virtually. You may have even been forced to introduce your young kids to work colleagues when they crashed live business meetings.

And on and on...

RELATED: 15 Self-Care Tips For Balancing Mental Health While Isolated In Coronavirus Quarantine

Now that it's summer, what does the world’s future look like? More prolonged, undetermined months of the same — more testing, more cases, and more deaths?

That, and even more inconsistent progress reports from anyone credible, anywhere in the globe, on any aspect of this pandemic. Plus, more hypotheses. We just learned that COVID-19 genetic traces existed earlier, in Milan, Italy, far away from China, for example. 

Now, there are terms coined for how we’re feeling about this whole situation: caution fatigue or quarantine fatigue.

In fact, the Urban Dictionary has introduced "quarantine" with this definition: "When you’re at the point when you’ve had just enough with the #stayathome but you know you’re not safe to go out and about."

With that in mind, here are 3 practical ways to recognize quarantine fatigue, how you got there, and what you can do to stay safe.

1. Recognizing the clear signs.

Good news! It comes down to recognizing just one, single, clearly observable, and crucial element: You’ve become numb and stopped being vigilant.

That’s right. Surprising, isn't it? 

And this can manifest in various ways, such as:

  • Showing low motivation to comply with safety guidelines. (Some parts of the world have forced entire countries and states to shut down again!)
  • Becoming impatient or lax with science-based warnings, even disbelieving them to be real or currently relevant as actual risks.
  • Consciously bending our risk assessment and safety behavior — including lax hand washing, mask-wearing, and lenient or dropped physical distancing (a.k.a., joining or scoffing at crowds at the beach!).
  • Expressing unproductive behavior. (You are increasingly irritable, stressed, angry, anxious, and on edge, distracted and unable to sleep.)
  • Eating more or less.
  • Tempted to react with "learned helplessness," a giving-up strategy, based on a belief that whatever you do, it doesn’t matter.
  • Sensing harm to your mental health (39 percent reported this in a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll).

Recognizing "Quarantigue" symptoms is a start — but only a start. Until you harness positive energy strategies to create a more compelling future for yourself and your loved ones, you might be stuck.

2. Understand how you got yourself into this funk.

It wasn’t your fault, initially. While getting stuck is a normal part of life, staying stuck is a conscious choice.

When our brain perceives threats, we sense fear in our body via stress hormones and the sympathetic nervous system. We trigger a "fight, flight, or freeze" response. That’s it.

And it cycles that way, like autopilot, every moment we are alive.

These three key brain components are active:

  • The amygdala: Called the "primitive brain," the amygdala swiftly determines the importance of the "threat" about 200 milliseconds before we even can process our awareness of it!
  • The hippocampus: This part of the brain assesses the threat context — as in, whether it's real or not. For example, is that a snake at our feet, or a piece of rope?
  • The prefrontal cortex: This is the "thinking" part of the brain triggers our responses.

Months ago, the pandemic set off alarms in the amygdala. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex prompted us to wipe down surfaces and groceries. These behaviors helped us create a sense of control of the amygdala’s fear impact.

Indeed, our brain can do more than we think, and after months of repeating this initially instinctive cycle, our brains now prompt a perceived sense of false confidence that we’re safer.

The initial perception of fear now seems less important, almost routine — like a roller coaster or horror movie seems less scary, the more you repeat the experience.

Except, with COVID-19, zero seems safer now (than before), and the life or death risk is still absolutely real and globally local.

The only thing that has changed in our world is our own personal decision to remain mindful and vigilant, or to allow ourselves to become self-numbed and Quarantigued.

RELATED: 6 Ways To Manage Depression & Feelings Of Hopelessness While Isolated In Quarantine

3. Harness the right strategy.

Choose to be guided by your inner truth. Be mindful and fully present in the moment before making any decision that matters.

In the Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes, "All problems are illusions of the mind… The moment that judgment stops through acceptance of what it is, you are free of the mind. You have made room for love, for joy, for peace."

Sounds so simple — and it is!

Only for those who choose it to be. Or, you can choose to make it as hard for yourself as you want it to be, instead.

You get more than 90,000 opportunities every day to make the choice for yourself to be either guided or directed.

Those who choose to be guided have a consistent focus on what is. These people harness positive energy strategies to create more compelling results, even in this uncertain, upside-down world we find ourselves in now — easily, effortlessly, and naturally.

So, go for it! You are worthy!

It truly comes down to your choice to reframe what you choose to be, do, and have. Hallucinate better, in the moment, to serve you better. Choose now to make that your own best go-to strategy to get yourself "unstuck."

While COVID-19 has convincingly forced our world to redefine what "normal" truly is or ever was, one thing is clear: The only constant in life is change.

And it matters little what the Universe throws our way, individually or as a community. Instead, what matters is what we take action on and how we choose to harness our best self to make our world a better place — for ourselves and for those who matter to us.

Here’s to your improved and sustained wellness, during and after COVID-19!

Let’s decide together to make our world a better place — for ourselves and for those who matter to us from now on.

RELATED: Why Slowing Down & Reflecting On Our Lives And Values Is So Vital Right Now

Sign Up for the YourTango Newsletter

Let's make this a regular thing!

Paul Litwack is a Life Coach who empowers leaders to create improved and measurable, personal, professional, and organizational results. Check out his Get UNstuck NOW Breakthrough Coaching System strategies, tools, and hacks, or call to connect with him.

Author
Expert