July 21, 2020 – As coronavirus cases increase under California’s plan to reopen, Governor Gavin Newsom recently ordered certain areas, including bars, indoor restaurants, theaters and bowling alleys, to close again. Online, crisis fatigue flared. Residents vented long frustrations, blaming the governor and each other.
Six months after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, mental health experts fear that many Americans have reached the point of being emotionally overwhelmed.
Anger, frustration, disappointment and despair erupted across the country. In California, people have taken to social media to express their feelings. Some even pushed to recall Newsom.
“The dictator continues on his path of destruction,” David Wohl tweeted of the governor.
Others rejected the perceived wrongs.
The effort to recall the governor, according to Twitter user Nancy Lee Grahn, “comes from the same insanely stupid selfish group that has just brunched, beached, bar without a mask and spread their infected droplets statewide. You did that and now you’re crazy? Bad luck, jerks. The government is right and protecting you without deserving it, so stop whining.
It is natural to feel anxiety and grief
It’s not just the pandemic. Americans also face economic distress and racial injustice. “Most of us are equipped to deal with a crisis or maybe a few crises simultaneously,” says Arianna Galligher, associate director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience (STAR) program at Ohio State University, which treats those with pain. psychological trauma. “But when everything is sort of at a tipping point at the same time, there comes a point where our usual coping skills are overwhelmed, and the result is crisis fatigue.
While crisis fatigue is not an official diagnosis, its effects are real. People can feel so overwhelmed that they don’t know how to move forward, she says.
When people experience crisis fatigue, it’s natural for them to experience a mixture of exhaustion, rage, disgust, hopelessness, hopelessness, hypervigilance, anxiety and grief, according to Galligher.
As the seizures continue, not only have minds frayed, but many people feel less energetic and less motivated, says Karestan Koenen, PhD, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
“In the beginning [of the pandemic], people were scheduling Zoom dates, Zoom parties, Zoom game nights, ”she says. But she has noticed more stress and burnout, including among workers who take shelter in place and who may also be raising children. “We’re privileged if we can work from home,” says Koenen. “But if we work from home, there is no longer a division between home and work.”
Being unemployed is even more disastrous. With the reopening of various parts of the country, some employees were able to return to work cutting hair, waiting for tables and selling movie tickets. But even with attempts to restore parts of our previous life, many people remain sad and disappointed that things haven’t improved, Koenen says. “In places where things are reopening, it is not the same. They realize it’s going to be long.
Some people seem to have given up on trying. In early July, Jennifer Morse, MD, a public health official from Michigan, told the Bridge News Agency that she was seeing a new complication: COVID fatigue. She spotted more crowds and fewer masks, as did Peter Gulick, DO, an infectious disease expert in Lansing, MI. “It’s like they’ve had enough, they don’t care,” he said. “It’s, ‘Doggone it, I’m not going to eat my spinach anymore.'”
Another kind of threat
Despite the fatigue of the crisis, the threat remains real and pervasive. As a psychiatric epidemiologist, Koenen studies the consequences of disasters on mental health. This crisis is different from disasters such as a hurricane or a terrorist attack. With these events, “it’s very bad at first, then there’s kind of a linear improvement” as the affected communities recover, she said.
But with the coronavirus, there is no recovery yet, she says. “That’s what was different. We are still there. She compares the pandemic to other chronic and severe stressors with no obvious endpoint – more similar to long-term conflict and war, or displacement and refugee camps.
“For most of us, if there’s a clear end in sight, it’s a little easier to muster the energy to cope in the short term. But when a crisis turns into a more chronic crisis, it is more difficult to harness these energy reserves, ”says Galligher. “A lot of people are starting to ask themselves some of these more existential questions, like ‘What are we going to do, and is this the new normal? How do we do it as a culture? “
Galligher and Koenen, who have a counseling background, offered advice on how to tackle the challenges of crisis-related fatigue.
Spend your energy intentionally
Instead of feeling intimidated by so many crises in the world, pick one or two priorities that you want to have an impact on, Galligher says. You can use your personal efforts, your voice, or your money to contribute to a meaningful goal.
For example, some of his colleagues have been deeply troubled by the wildfires in Australia over the past year. “They weren’t able to get to Australia with fire hoses,” she says. “But they were absolutely able to send additional capital to save wildlife and to support the people who were on the front lines trying to fight these fires.
Pursue the things that give you joy and hope
No one needs to remember that the world is inundated with problems. In the midst of the turmoil, “you must actively decide to find joy,” Koenen says. “Make it an active practice.”
She takes time out of her busy schedule to walk outside, listen to a favorite song, or hang out with her son and dog.
Such moments are worth living, says Galligher. Notice the things, big or small, that bring lightness and humor to your day.
Take breaks, take care of yourself
Be careful when you’re feeling tired and overwhelmed, says Galligher. Allow yourself to take a break from stress and indulge in a healthy, calming distraction. You are not selfish, she said. Taking care of yourself is an act of maintenance and self-preservation.
Koenen agrees. While giving and altruism are invaluable in times of difficulty, they can come at a cost if we’re not careful. “The needs are so great that it is easy for the average person, in the interest of being helpful, to run out.”
Choose your battles wisely
The mask versus no mask battle rages on, producing uncomfortable and sometimes violent clashes. Black Lives Matter protesters have argued with those who proclaim that all lives matter.
Right now, many of us are having important conversations with those who disagree with us, says Galligher. You cannot control the behavior of others during such exchanges, but you can control your own actions and decide when the time is right to end a discussion that is going nowhere – or not to engage in the first place.
Take a break from the news
“We all have to turn off the media sometimes,” says Koenen. Leaving the television on in the background all day can increase our feeling of seizure fatigue. Instead, get away from the news and social media for a few hours to refresh yourself.
Much of Koenen’s career has focused on trauma, so she has learned to create boundaries to avoid being overwhelmed by her subject. For example, she doesn’t do any studies on trauma before bed, she says.
We already feel isolated from close orders, but emotional connection and support can heal those who are feeling overwhelmed. Talk to someone you trust about how stress affects you, says Galligher.
Don’t think of your seizure fatigue as anything abnormal, she says. Feeling angry and desperate in the face of intense and prolonged stress is a common and understandable reaction.
Remember we will come out on the other side.
While the crises we face are vast, we can build on personal strengths that have helped us in the past, says Koenen.
“Most people have had times in their lives when things have been really bad and lasted a long time – a family member who was sick or had a chronic illness. Thinking about those times and how you went through them would help.
The country has faced calamities before, “things like the Great Depression, these other great catastrophic events that have unfolded for many years at the societal level,” she says.
“We’ve had major crises before, and there’s always another side – where we’re coming from.”
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