The virus has been with us for nearly one and half years, affecting every aspect of our daily lives. After such a long period of disturbance, it’s no surprise that many people could start developing a condition called Pandemic Fatigue.
According to the World’s Health Organization (WHO), pandemic fatigue is a natural response to a prolonged public health crisis. Although there is no specific definition of what it includes, pandemic fatigue is generally connected not only with the virus itself, but with all sorts of behaviors that are expected from people during COVID-19, such as wearing masks, getting vaccinated, sanitizing surfaces, distancing from others etc.
When a period of a crisis is particularly long, as in the case of COVID-19, people may eventually grow tired of all the preventive measures, hoping for a return to their ‘normal life’. Even in the media, one can see an increased number of people taking off their masks despite implemented laws, or attending crowded events despite restrictions. According to Scientific American magazine, the decreasing compliance with public health measurements is connected to the lack of motivation to do things that we are expected to do.
Since COVID-19 has forced us to create new routines, such as wearing a mask whenever we go out, or greeting people without shaking hands, it has necessitated many mental and physical adjustments in daily practices. At first, humans altered their lives to fit the requirements because they understood the importance of such measures. When the crisis was in its initial stage, people saw it as a threat and tried to do everything they could to prevent it becoming worse. Since we saw benefits in obeying the rules, as in many countries strict measures stabilized the number of the infected and helped with balancing the consequences of the pandemic, practices like mask wearing, social distancing, remote working and using hand sanitizers were incorporated into our daily habits immediately.
However, the human mental capacity is limited and the cognitive functions of the brain don’t allow us to focus on multiple difficult tasks at the same time as it requires too much mental effort. Since changes belong to the difficult tasks and require us to focus on adjustments and apply new perceptions, constant uncertainties and changing laws alongside the development of the pandemic, has been particularly draining.
As pandemic measures are changing nearly every day and much of how we live is different from before the outbreak, the amount of mental power to comprehend such amounts of data is way more than a human is used to processing. To succeed in such an environment, heavy mental work is required – which is what makes us exhausted (Scientific American, 2021).
In Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Red Cross (HKRC), alongside the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies and The Chinese University of Hong Kong were some of the organizations that undertook a survey regarding the mental state of the citizens during the period of the health crisis. The data of 728 samples showed that most of the people do feel mentally and physically exhausted, yet in case of feeling unwell they would immediately consult a health professional. Over 70% of people said that they would comply with public health measures, despite tiredness (HKRC, 2021).
Internationally, the people who experience pandemic fatigue rise to new heights. For example, according to BBC, and a survey conducted by WHO, over 60% of Europeans struggle with the condition, and they grow more and more apathetic and demotivated when it comes to following the preventive measures. Especially since the pandemic disrupted many important events, such as entertainment or religious celebrations, and people are still getting infected with the virus even though the measures had been previously put in place, it is becoming harder for people to trust that it makes sense to obey.
However, the pandemic is not the end of the world and there are multiple ways to prevent tiredness, or at least make it a little less intense.
Realizing and understanding the phenomenon of pandemic fatigue is important, as it helps us to familiarize ourselves with our own feelings and realize that what we feel is valid and natural. With understanding comes acceptance, and by accepting the way we feel, we may begin to act upon it.
Although COVID-19 is continuously preventing us from doing everything that we would like to do, there are still a variety of things that can help us with coping. Especially in cities like Hong Kong, where the number of cases has diminished significantly and life is slowly back to normal in many cases, we can start exploring again.
Whether it’s by getting involved in new activities such as yoga or dance classes, or going for staycations to an unfamiliar district, there is finally time to find the beauty of the city and admire its variety. From mountains and seas to the buzzling city, there are many things we are not used to doing, that we now have time to take up. Yes, we can’t travel and we need to follow tiresome laws. But no, we don’t need to allow it to stop us from living.
1) Scientific American https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-we-can-deal-with-pandemic-fatigue/
2) Hong Kong Red Cross https://www.redcross.org.hk/en/pdf_ebook_pandemic_fatigue_Fact_sheet_.html