So yes, I think covid fatigue is a real thing, and that we do need to be concerned. The rollercoaster of border restrictions, MIQ’s, lockdowns, response levels, traffic lights, mandates, and even masks have created a heightened level of anxiety in all of us. This in turn triggers the natural fight or flight response in our brains and tends to turn off rational thought processes.
For me, the biggest challenge is the uncertainty and fear that the virus creates. What happens if I catch Covid? How will my body react? How will it affect my family and work? What happens if I infect someone else? This uncertainty means that we are also in a heightened state of alertness and tend to react emotionally to things that might not normally bother us. This in turn creates more tension and stress with our families and workmates, and the cycle continues.
The media also contribute to this uncertainty with a constant stream of worst-case scenarios, rather than a more balanced approach based on probabilities. However, sensationalism is what sells or causes people to click.
How then do we treat covid fatigue? The simple answer is that resilience is the vaccine for this condition. How do we build resilience in both organisation’s and individuals? To guide us we can use the hierarchy of controls as we would any other health and safety issue.
We can eliminate some of the stress by reducing our consumption of media. We can develop a relaxation response to stressful events. We can substitute physical or social activity instead of spending time on the couch. We can engineer time to communicate with our families and workmates and ask how things are really going. We can set up and administer opportunities to provide emotional support where needed. As for PPE, wrapping ourselves in cotton wool is not the answer, but maybe developing a healthy sense of optimism that the worst is behind us.
If you think that you or your colleagues may be suffering from covid fatigue, the Charter Health and Safety leaders’ workshop is for you. Here you can learn how to build resilience for yourself and your workplace and be in a better position when the next challenge comes along.
Paul Duggan, General Manager