'Our brains are like a mental gas tank': COVID-19 fatigue setting in during 10th month of pandemic
REGINA -- Mental fatigue from the COVID-19 pandemic continues for residents in Saskatchewan, and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) said it’s likely not going anywhere as uncertainty to a pandemic end date remains.
Phyllis O’Connor, the executive director of the CMHA Saskatchewan Branch, said the fatigue has become very apparent over the past few months.
“Now, almost a year in, it’s worn extremely thin on people. They’re tired of not being able to be with their family members for such a long period,” O’Connor said. “You can interact with people on social media but it’s not the same as face to face.”
She said what makes it more difficult is not knowing the end date.
“We don’t know when all these precautions and all of this is going to end,” she said. “We’re hoping it’s soon because of the vaccines but that uncertainty really weighs heavy on people in terms of their mental ability to be able to deal with it.”
She said there are different aspects to the fatigue. There’s mental fatigue, which comes from lack of information and making decisions. She also listed crisis fatigue, which comes from constant bad news and your body producing reactive chemicals, which can also lead to physical effects. Finally, what O’Connor said is impacting people the most right now, is the moral fatigue.
“Everything has that moral decision involvement and that even when it’s very simple things that normally we wouldn’t have to think about, now we really have to think deeply about,” she said.
“Our brains are like a mental gas tank. When you’re constantly having to dig deep and worry about all these extra concerns even on simple things, our energy is limited and when that gets depleted, people do experience that fatigue.”
Recently, there have been a number of public health order violations in Saskatchewan. O’Connor said while some violations fall more under a person’s ideology, many incidents could be linked to fatigue.
“A lot of people are just tired of always having to take all these precautions and people’s patience is wearing thing,” she said. “Unfortunately when that happens, sometimes individuals let it slide and say ‘it’s just me, so if it’s just me it won’t matter.’”
The Saskatchewan Medical Association said as we see cases rise in the province, it’s more important than ever to follow protocols.
“We’ve become a little complacent with 200 and 300 new cases [per day] in our province, and that makes me worried as a family doctor,” Dr. Barb Konstantynowicz, the president of SMA, said. “We know that a vaccine is available and I think that’s created a sense of ‘I don’t have to worry so much since a vaccine will soon be here.’”
She said until vaccines can be distributed to everyone, it’s important to continue following COVID-19 protocols.
“Increasing the spread in the community means those who have greater risks of developing symptomatic and more serious COVID-19 will be more vulnerable to getting it,” she said.
The CMHA said there are a number of outlets people can turn to for support if they are struggling during the pandemic. The CMHA offers a Wellness Response Line in Saskatchewan, which does not act as a crisis line, but a support line.
There’s also a Bounce Back Program available here.
O’Connor said finding something to look forward to, even if it’s a certain meal on the weekend or a virtual games night with friends, can help. She said it’s also important to remember just how far we’ve come since the pandemic began.