“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” — Victor Frankl
Are you finding it tough to stay vigilant with COVID-19 guidelines?
It happens to all of us. Our job as human beings is to be ok, to do what we need to, to find a way to make ourselves survive and thrive. So, when we are very vigilant for too long, our brains decide it has been too much, and start to get too relaxed. We might forget to wash our hands when coming home, or we make a quick stop somewhere without our mask and gloves. This is called “alarm fatigue” or “caution fatigue” and, as described in this very interesting segment (listen in at the 47-minute mark), it even happens to Emergency Room doctors. Staying continually vigilant to alarm bells ringing all the time is simply exhausting!
What are some solutions? How do we continue to keep ourselves safe and follow rules and recommendations that we all thought would be long gone by now?
One suggestion—and one we’ve suggested before—is to control your intake of information. Choose a source, or a few sources that you trust and limit your intake to them. The less you overwhelm yourself with all things COVID, the more energy you’ll have to maintain vigilance with public health recommendations. Keep it compartmentalized so it doesn’t consume your every thought.
Your sense of alarm fatigue could also have to do with your self-talk. Perhaps we connect to that part of us that wants to be a responsible person, so we might sigh and grumble but put on the PPE (personal protective equipment) anyway. Perhaps we remember grandparents we haven’t been able to see or hug for months now, and that motivates us to stay vigilant, even if we don’t feel that for ourselves it’s completely necessary.
And, taking the lead from Dr Petrosoniak (in the talk linked above), it’s good to talk about it. Put that challenge into words, share it with someone who can help you make a good choice and find a solution. Sometimes, just saying it out loud, makes us hear the solution, even if it’s hard.
Another thought: We need to take our PPE practices out of the realm of fear and vigilance and into the realm of, ‘these are my new habits/ritual ways of being.’ Just as how we might choose to change our eating or exercise habits. Similarly, we can turn virus vigilance into a new set of habits. As with other habits, that usually means a commitment, positive thinking, and rewards for doing the right thing. Of course, a support system from family and friends helps too.
Wishing you a wonderful shabbas,
Chaya Glogauer, PhD, CPsych on behalf of the Mental Health Committee
**If you are experiencing any distress due to the COVID virus, please reach out to Amudim’s free confidential support line (718) 972-3000 or call Toronto RELIEF Resources at (416) 789-1600.**