Description: As we head into December (2020) with pandemic numbers spiking and Christmas approaching why is it that some (many?) people are being less vigilant about social distancing and some are even getting angry about increasing restrictions. It is not like this is new. Things are much worse now than they were back in March and April and yet you would not predict that from the behavior, testiness or even surliness of some folks. Perhaps you have heard the term caution fatigue. What might that involved and how might it apply to what we are seeing and hearing these days from folks in relation to current pleas for continued and increased distancing and isolation as we hang on for the arrival and administration of vaccines? Think about what caution fatigue might involve from a Psychological point of view and about what sorts of things might help and then read the article linked below to see what a clinical research psychologist and psychological research suggests.
Source: COVID-19 caution fatigue: Why it happens, and 3 ways to prevent it, David Dozois, The Conversation.
Date: December 2, 2020
So how did your hypotheses fare? There are several ways to approach and understand caution fatigue. The exhaustion that follows a long stretch within the resistance phase of the stress reaction or fight/flight activation is one route. The long period of time practicing vigilance can also reduce vigilance driven by fear. The lack of social contact that is not just missing one’s friends but that involves a very basic social contact deficit that is a core part of who we are may also be a factor. As well, while there are a great many somewhat stressful or anxiety provoking things we do over long periods of time (think of paying a mortgage, raising children, caring for and worrying about older relatives, funding and keeping a job) that we simply start to stop addressing because they are making us tired, we are showing caution fatigue in relation to Covid-19 even though it seems like its end may be in sight (after things get worse for a little bit). Instead of just saying hang in there, the linked article suggests some things we CAN do that WILL make a difference, so think about it, make a plan and share it with others (in safe socially distanced ways)… a good seasonal thing to do.
Questions for Discussion:
- What is caution fatigue?
- How is caution fatigue related to the exhaustion or burnout phase of long-term exposure to stress/anxiety??
- What are the psychological foundations of each of the things to do suggested in the linked article and which one or two of them can you put into your own practice right now?
References (Read Further):
Echo Pandemic Link
Piotrowski, Andrea (2020) Be on guard against “caution fatigue” Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Link
Carpenter, J. K., Andrews, L. A., Witcraft, S. M., Powers, M. B., Smits, J. A., & Hofmann, S. G. (2018). Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety and related disorders: A meta‐analysis of randomized placebo‐controlled trials. Depression and anxiety, 35(6), 502-514. Link
Craske, M. G., Treanor, M., Conway, C. C., Zbozinek, T., & Vervliet, B. (2014). Maximizing exposure therapy: An inhibitory learning approach. Behaviour research and therapy, 58, 10-23.
Three months after COVID-19 pandemic declared, Canadians express ‘fatigue’, are social distancing less, Angus Reid Institute Link
Dozois, D. J. (2018). Not the years in your life, but the life in your years: Lessons from Canadian psychology on living fully. Canadian Psychology/psychologie canadienne, 59(2), 107. Link