This is a year to forget, but will you ever forget 2020?
Everyone from the success gurus to the prophets missed the 2020 predictions. No one predicted that COVID-19 would turn our world upside down and inside out.
2020 is leaving an indelible impression on an enormous part of the world population. A new era is here, and a new vocabulary resulted. Established terms such as “self-isolating”, “pandemic”, “quarantine”, “lockdown” and “key workers” have increased in use, while coronavirus/COVID-19 neologisms are being coined quicker than ever.
These terms and phrases include “covidiot” (someone ignoring public health advice), “covideo party” (online parties via Zoom or Skype), and “covexit” (the strategy for exiting lockdown), while coronavirus gained new descriptors — including “the ‘rona.”
We’ve coined unfamiliar terms, like COVID-19, social distancing, and flatten the curve. We’ve learned important distinctions such as epidemic vs. pandemic, quarantine vs. isolation, and respirator vs. ventilator.
We are familiar with “social distancing,” “pandemic,” and the big switch from “respirators to ventilators.”
Our language was not the only thing that expanded. Many face extreme levels of stress, chronic fatigue, and fear. The virus has touched our mind, will, and emotions. Most of us resemble Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. We feel like two people in the same body.
We are all on the same roller coaster.
OUR EMOTIONS ARE PROMINENT
The coronavirus is not the only contagion we are experiencing. Stress has spread like a virus and caused irrational emotions. Many are riding the wave of emotional change like a wild bull.
Many are out of control — suffering from depression, loneliness and suicidal thoughts. Sadly, there is a second wave coming. And it’s not the George Floyd protests.
The second wave
The second wave is crisis fatigue.
Pandemics create more than death. They have an immeasurable effect. We have experienced the effects fear. People collected and hoarded items such as toilet paper, paper towels, and lots of other paper products. The over-collection of medical supplies, medicines, masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer were also marks of mass hysteria. All fear-related.
And then the tidal wave of anxiety-related behaviors followed. Foggy brains resulting from stress, fear, and anxiety are the new normal. These behavioral issues are not over. The fact is, it’s only just begun.
Other situations will create chaos. The George Floyd outrage will also feed crisis fatigue.
As Ben Debney, a specialist in moral panics has recently explained:
Crisis has long had political uses for ruling groups … elites and their intellectual courtiers often manufacture crises themselves … Where not directly complicit themselves in the process of engineering crises for political purposes, elites and their ideological lickspittles reveal time and time again a tenacious capacity to exploit legitimate crises. Much about the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic reflects this historical truism.
“Allostatic load” is chronic or extreme wear and tear on our bodies, mind, and emotions. This over-load creates emotional trauma, breakdown, and poor decision making.
During allostatic load, the victim suffers fluctuating endocrine or neural responses resulting from chronic or repeated stress.
Have you noticed your friends, parents, or maybe yourself struggling with decision making? Most likely, the allostatic load is the culprit.
2020 has unleashed decision fatigue like a tidal wave. If you pay attention, knowing what it looks like, you probably discover there’s more of it around you than you realized.
Are you suffering from an allostatic load? Think about the questions that fill your head on an average day. Mask or no mask?
What about gloves?
Should I go to church? Do I have to wipe off my grocery cart?
Does cash spread more germs than a credit card?
Should I get gas? Do I wear gloves at the pump?
Do I wear gloves? Am I crazy?
Can I wear a mask more than once?
Can you share a mask? Are gloves recyclable?
Do I need to wipe off my boxes from Amazon?
Should I wipe off my groceries before putting them in the hamper?
This list alone probably created a moment of anxiety inside of you. See my point?
A TSUNAMI OF FATIGUE
Do you see why crisis fatigue is a tsunami in this season?
“What we’re up against in this kind of situation is our long-ingrained habits,” says Carrie Bulger, a psychology professor at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut who teaches decision fatigue.
Picture this. She says, “You decide to go to the grocery store. You see strawberries. Are they bruised? Normally you’d pick them up and check for freshness. Not now. So, you move through the supermarket landscape hyperaware of decisions — from social distancing to choosing a cut of meat — and walk out to the parking lot exhausted.”
Yes, exhausted. Normal routines are no longer normal.
My recent doctor’s appointment is a perfect example. They forced me to check-in online, pay the co-pay on my phone, and answer health questions outside the front door of my health provider. This procedure was new.
New for me and the desk workers. We were edgy and unsure. Even simple things demand more emotional energy and cognitive processing.
Recently, some friends went to their favorite Mexican food restaurant where I live. They had to wait outside in their car for the hostess to call them on their phone to come inside. Before they could enter the restaurant, their temperatures were checked. Another new procedure.
The automatics of our daily routines are gone. A new era is here.
NOT ROCKET SCIENCE
There is no rocket science here. Handling crisis fatigue is like handling all stress disorders.
Jacqueline Gollan, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, has coined a name for this phenomenon based on 15 years of her research into depression, anxiety, and decision-making. She calls it “caution fatigue.”
You’ve heard all these tips before, but they bear repeating: get enough sleep, follow a balanced diet, exercise regularly, don’t drink too much, stay socially connected, and relieve stress. “If people can address the reasons for the caution fatigue, the caution fatigue itself will improve.
Allow me to add the importance of gratitude. Gratitude is a major stress hack. Exercise is also a tremendous stress hack. Strive to have fun, decompress, and laugh often.
James Clear says:
- “When you feel overwhelmed, practice one minute of mindfulness.”
- “When you feel restless, do a one-minute workout.”
- “When the world seems uncontrollable, focus on what you can control.”
Here’s the bonus: Decide not to decide.
Crisis fatigue negatively affects our attitude and our outcomes. Stress and crisis are open doors to poor decisions.
This season will not last forever. Focus on the idea that the current situation is not a forever situation.
Give yourself permission to not decide. Some decisions can wait – so, let them wait. No decision IS a decision, and sometimes that’s a GOOD decision.
Be sure that you pay as much attention to crisis fatigue as you have to current social and world situations.
This was first posted at MEDIUM.COM