Psychiatrist explains how to navigate pandemic fatigue

Posted at 6:22 AM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-28 06:36:30-04

NORFOLK, Va. – It’s been several months into restrictions to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and mental health experts say many of us are experiencing burnout.

“Every decision is now a big decision,” said renowned psychiatrist Dr. Dion Metzger. “Should I go to the restaurant? Should I drive or fly? Should I go visit that friend? Should I go to this birthday party? Should I go to this grocery store? So all things that were just reflexes for us, we never gave it a second thought, now they're like big decisions and it takes way more energy just to decide on everyday things.”

The fatigue, experts say, can lead to people letting their guards down, or becoming even more meticulous in following safety guidelines.

“Follow the precautions as much as you can,” Metzger said. “If you have to contemplate whether you'd have to go somewhere and you think you're going to be fearful when you're there, just don't bother going.”

Metzger said while it’s important to stay informed, you also have to protect your mental health by the amount of information you’re consuming.

“You have to be really careful of what information you're letting in. Some people are responding by catastrophizing and thinking this is the worst thing in the world, and then there's some people who are just throwing their hands up,” Metzger explained. “If the people who are catastrophizing are stressing you out, or the people who don't care are stressing you out, try to limit your exposure to how much you're hearing from them.”

Metzger said tension can also develop between friends and family members over how closely – or loosely – they’re following restrictions.

“The older generation might be way more careful [about coronavirus restrictions] compared to the younger generation who may be in the club,” Metzger said. “So we have to just really accept each other's views.”

Metzger urged people who are taking a relaxed approach to protecting themselves from contracting COVID-19 to respect others who are being more cautious, especially when it comes to visiting the elderly and vulnerable populations.

“I know we miss our family members, but we have to respect each others' decisions. I think that's really kind of the moral of it,” Metzger said. “If they want to say isolated and they're not comfortable with all the stuff that you're doing, you're going to have to stay away from them right now. So I think just accepting our differences and agreeing to disagree is really the best way that we're going to get through this, because there's no way everybody in the family is going to agree to the same safety precautions and agree to how much they should go out or when they should wear a mask.”