Since then, we have increased our personal hygiene habits, we have donned face masks, and we have limited our interactions with everyone from the delivery man to the store clerk to our clergymen to our family and friends.
It seems our entire year has been filled with stress, anxiety, isolation, social-distancing, and missing out on important events. For the caregivers in the home, our responsibilities have doubled, tripled, and sometimes more.
The stress and fatigue on the caregivers have skyrocketed as we move in these unchartered waters. We have shifted from working from an office to working from home, while taking care of our children (overseeing their schooling, keeping them entertained, trying to keep things as “normal” as possible…), and looking out for our parents (how are they managing through all the shutdowns, are they eating right, do they have enough groceries, how are they feeling, are they getting enough/any exercise…).
With no real end in sight to the pandemic, many of us are left feeling drained, angry, and alone. We are starting to feel a lack of motivation and willingness to adhere to safety procedures and protocols.
Jacqueline Gollan, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, has given this phenomenon the name “caution fatigue.” Professor Gollan based her conclusion on her 15 years of research on decision-making, anxiety, and depression.
What is COVID caution fatigue?
Our early feelings of positivity and preparations have started to give way to a lack of caring and a focus on all that is wrong. We are tired of being cooped up, tired of playing safe, and tired of being scared. When this happens, Dr. Gollan explains, we begin to feel physically and/or mentally depleted.
She went on to say, “Our lives are defined by our habits and routines, and thus, are hard to change.” When these routines are changed unexpectedly, like they did with the pandemic, we lose our sense of normalcy. Feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety can set in and cloud our judgement. Our energy levels and concentration may decline.
How can we offset caution fatigue?
One way to help ward off caution fatigue is to make sure you are doing things in your life that give you physical, emotional, and spiritual energy while not compromising safety. This will contribute to a sense of normal routine while continuing to adhere to safe distancing.
Professor Gollan suggested, “being a good member of a collective society, preserving health for yourself and family. It’s value-driven behavior and has an ultimate reward in caring for others and yourself.”
Dr. Melinda Ring, executive director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern University suggests the following strategies to quiet our chronic stress response:
- Engage in gratitude practices. The simple act of acknowledging the good in our lives has a profound impact on our mental and physical well-being.
- Fuel our bodies with healthy fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. This helps our bodies withstand attacks. On the contrary, processed foods, those high in sugar and calories, create oxidative stress and hormone swings in our bodies.
- Move our body. We all know physical activity contributes to a better quality of life. So, whether we go for a walk, play a sport, or lift weights, regular exercise will improve our ability to cope with stress.
- Incorporate mind-body practices. They balance out the activation of our stress responses. There is a wide variety of choices – mindful meditation, breathwork and moving meditations like Tai Chi and yoga, guided imagery and tapping. Try one, try a few. They will help calm our nervous system.
In-Home Care Can Help
We weren’t designed to “do it all”. As caregivers, sometimes we forget this and help everyone around us and run out of energy ourselves. Make sure your new routine includes regular breaks for yourself to recharge your battery – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Ask for help. Have a service to do your grocery shopping. Have your partner watch the kids while you go for a long walk. Have Comfort Home Care spend some time with mom and/or dad.
A professional caregiver can provide companionship as well as practical help. It will give your parents a new friend to share stories with and you the peace of mind knowing there is another set of eyes on them. We can assist with getting them to and from appointments as well…so you aren’t having to drag unhappy kids along. We know how you are feeling…it’s a lot!