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Doctors discuss effects of COVID fatigue and social distancing burnout

Following social distancing guidelines like wearing masks or getting together outdoors, while...
Following social distancing guidelines like wearing masks or getting together outdoors, while helpful in reducing the spread of COVID-19, can be psychologically draining.(WBAY Staff)
Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 12:16 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Many of us have experienced frustration during the pandemic. A phenomenon some doctors call “COVID fatigue.”

“People are just tired,” Dr. Brian Cagle, a clinical psychologist with Bellin Health, said. “I think that relatively brief reprieve toward the beginning of the summer, I think people saw the light at the end of the tunnel and then all of a sudden with the delta variant everything started going downhill again and they’re like I’ve had enough of it.”

Following social distancing guidelines like wearing masks or getting together outdoors, while helpful in reducing the spread of COVID-19, can be psychologically draining.

“We are finding that people are experiencing social distancing fatigue, COVID fatigue,” Dr. Shilagh Mirgain, a distinguished psychologist at UW Health, shared. “We’ve been running a long distance race and feeling really burned out from all the safety precautions we’ve had to take, all the changes in our lifestyle, and just wanting to get back to a sense of normal.”

Unlike other physical and mental ailments, health experts recognize most people don’t have a lot of experience to lean on for this marathon of an illness.

“If I have chronic depression or if I have back pain, I have a frame of reference,” Dr. Cagle highlighted. “I know what it feels like but yes, the frustration is definitely similar. If I have chronic back pain or chronic depression, I’m going to get very frustrated because it just doesn’t want to seem to end.”

“We find that one of the consequences of the pandemic is a rise in mental health challenges,” Dr. Mirgain added. “We’ve been seeing an increase in depression and anxiety. Those rates are higher than they were pre-pandemic. We’re also seeing a rise in things like substance abuse or sleep difficulties.”

Doctors’ tips for tackling COVID exhaustion emphasize doing things that make you happy in a socially distant and safe way, like exercising or journaling. Plus, speaking with professional support if you need to.

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