Coronavirus pandemic fatigue affects mental health

The exhaustion from coronavirus and precautions
Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 7:03 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 19, 2020 at 9:48 AM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Are you experiencing pandemic fatigue? It turns out it’s a real condition that’s both a side effect of having the coronavirus and the exhaustion that comes with taking all of the precautions to avoid the virus.

“This wears on you psychologically,” Dr. David Holcombe with the Office of Public Health, Region Six said.

According to Holcombe, COVID-19 fatigue happens in two ways. The first is an actual side effect in some patients that makes them very tired after experiencing the virus and can also affect the brain, lungs and heart. The second is the exhaustion that comes from wearing masks, taking precautions or constantly talking and hearing about the virus.

“It’s the constant threat and the constant looking at statistics about people dying,” Holcombe said.

Normally when people feel bad or isolated, Holcombe said they’re encouraged to go out and mingle, but that’s all out the window during a pandemic.

“When people are in an impossible situation and they see no way to get out, it causes distress, depression and pandemic fatigue,” he said.

Holcombe said it’s a real issue, but people can work around it.

“First of all, you accept the reality that there is something out there that it is a threat,” Holcombe said. “It is a constant threat and then you seek these kinds of workarounds. You seek those things that will give you peace of mind and some pleasure that don’t include activities that will put you at risk like going to a bar.”

Other ways to avoid fatigue include getting enough rest, continuing to practice social distancing, using good hygiene and wearing a mask.

“This is not a political problem. This is a health issue. This is a one in a hundred-year pandemic and anything we can do even though it infringes a little bit on our personal liberties is in the best interest of everyone, yourself and those people around you,” Holcombe said.

According to Holcombe, masks are vital to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect everyone from the virus.

“At first, there was some controversy about masks, who do they protect?” said Holcombe. “Do they protect the wearer or the other people? It was kind of felt that this was something that if you were sick it would protect others. But, as the disease has been around for more time, it’s become perfectly clear in studying nations and cities that wearing masks slows transmission. So, it does protect the wearer, and it protects the people around them. So it is an absolute good to wear a mask. Unfortunately, it’s gotten balled up into politics and people who resent being told what to do.”

He stressed that the pandemic is not anyone’s fault.

“This is something that’s come from the outside. It’s like a wartime situation. You may not have had anything to do with contributing to it. It is a reality and trying to deny it and get angry about it and find other rationalizations...that’s not helpful.”

Holcombe said it’s very important to communicate with contract tracers if they call you from (877)-766-2130.

“If you have a positive test, then you will receive a call from contract tracers. It’s an 877 number. There are many people that just won’t pick that up because they figured it’s some robo-calling. But in this case, it’s not a robo-caller, it’s somebody who is going to confirm the positivity of your test, and also ask you about places and people that you’ve been with in the recent past.”

According to Holcombe, about 40% of the people do not pick up the phone, and they are actually called three times with messages left explaining it’s a contact tracer. The contact tracer is interested in your positivity and finding out who you came into contact with. He also said about 50% of the people who actually answer say they have never been in contact with anybody in the last two weeks, which Holcombe said is not truthful.

“They think that it’s going to get people in trouble or since they’ve been to church it may implicate their church,” Holcombe said. “If they’ve been to work it would have implications for their colleagues. But it’s really helpful and it’s a way to hone in on places where there’s been transmission to make sure that people get tested, get quarantined, and if those people are positive, they get isolated. So if you’re contacted by tracers, pick up the phone, and please be honest. It’s very important.”

With the holiday season here, Holcombe reminds everyone of the risks involved.

“It is important always to recognize that there’s going to be danger in Thanksgiving, there’s going to be danger in Christmas because there simply won’t be vaccines out there to protect people. So people have to do what they can do. And that’s wear the mask. Now the testing part is another issue.”

If you think you need to get a COVID-19 test, don’t be afraid to do it.

Holcombe said that people, even in the very beginning, when they knew they were positive they would have to be isolated. Isolation means being out for 10 days and anyone who is in close contact has to be out for 14 days. Holcombe said that people who know they’re positive with children should not send their children to school, but instead get them tested.

“They don’t tell anybody they’re positive, and now it’s gotten to the point where people know that if they get tested, there is a chance to be positive, and they don’t really want those economic or social consequences. It’s a very selfish way to think because it’s not a disease that just affects you. It affects other people as well.”

Although Holcombe said the COVID-19 pandemic is tough, “It is going to end. Probably in six months, we will see enough vaccine be out there that it really makes a difference. Within a year’s time, your life is going to be back to normal. It’s a hard thing to get through and we all have to get through it together.”

Holcombe’s advice to people dealing with pandemic fatigue is:

“Don’t get discouraged. Don’t get depressed. Don’t give up the mask. Don’t give up the testing. Just slug on through until the end and then there is like a promised land post COVID. You just have to keep walking toward it.”

Dr. Holcombe
  • COUNSELING SERVICES: Office of Behavioral Health 1-866-310-7944, available 24/7. You can also text REACHOUT to 741741
  • The Salvation Army’s Emotional and Spiritual Care HOPEline remains available at 844-458-4673
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255

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