‘Lockdown fatigue’ is far more dangerous than it sounds for public and mental health

‘Lockdown fatigue’ is far more dangerous than it sounds for public and mental health

Dr Evelyn Lewin speaks unravels ‘lockdown fatigue’ – what it means for Australia’s coronavirus infection rates, as well as our broader mental health as restriction ease and we begin to tire of social isolation at home. 

Lockdown fatigue’ is real. After spending weeks cooped up, adhering to the government’s advice to stay home, some people are getting really sick of the restrictions.

So if you’re chomping at the bit to get out and do more, take heart knowing you’re not the only one who’s sick of lockdown.

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Currently, quarantine fatigue is a genuine disorder

Professor Lei Zhang, director of the Maryland Transportation Institute at the University of Maryland, acknowledges we’re all doing it tough at the moment.

“Staying at home isn’t easy, I think people are getting quarantine fatigue,” he said.

Professor Zhang led a study by the University of Maryland, which tracked over 100 million Americans’ mobile devices. It found that, from April 17, the number of people staying home started dropping.

“We saw something we hoped wasn’t happening, but it’s there,” lead researcher Professor Lei Zhang told The Washington Post. “It seems collectively we’re getting a little tired. It looks like people are loosening up on their own to travel more.” Mobility data from Apple Maps also found that requests for directions dropped dramatically in early March but began to trend upward at the end of April.

Dr Tim Jones gets it. The GP and spokesperson for the RACGP has a special interest in mental health.

He says there are a number of reasons people may be loosening up their behaviours and not adhering as strictly to lockdown restrictions at the moment. One reason that might be happening on our shores is because Australia is reporting so few new cases of COVID-19 each day.

People may therefore feel their chances of catching the virus are so small, they don’t need to worry about it as much as they did in the beginning of lockdown. “But also, whenever people are cooped up at home, after a little while frustration is going to be a natural response to that,” Dr Jones said. Even though Dr Jones can relate to these feelings, he said it’s super important to continue adhering to restrictions.

He said Australia is doing an excellent job at keeping new case numbers low, but that if we “jump the gun just a little bit, then this could drag on for months and months of going up and down through quite intense levels of restrictions”.

Be aware of the restrictions in your area

As restrictions are starting to ease, and are different in various states (especially when it comes to travel), it’s important to keep up to date with what’s going on in your area. But Dr Jones advises that, across the board, it’s still important not to leave the house unless you have an essential reason to do so, and to keep up social distancing, surface cleaning and hand washing. Another thing he says you should be doing at the moment is being nicer to yourself.

“It’s really important for people, if they are feeling frustrated or fatigued by what’s going on, to be able to look at themselves with a little bit of kindness,” he says. “I think it’s really important to have that attitude of self-kindness and if we are feeling that we’re starting to grate on each other, to make the most of going for a short walk or taking a little bit of time out,” he says.

And try to cut others a bit of slack, too. Dr Jones says we’re all feeling a bit more tired than we normally would, and are a “bit more short” with the people around us than we would normally pride ourselves on being.

“No one is at their best at the moment,” he says. But if you’re tearing your hair out because of lockdown fatigue, Dr Jones really wants to reiterate that you should still abide by the restrictions and hang in there. “Australia is doing a phenomenal job of flattening the curve and eradication of coronavirus from Australia is looking like a real possibility,” he says.

“And so if we’re able to hold it together for really what’s looking like a few more weeks, it looks like we may be able to return to relative normality within our country over a short period of time.”

More essential coronavirus reading:

Read up on what the government lockdown means for you, understand why Aussie doctors are up arms, be aware of the ‘hidden symptom’ of COVID-19 carriers, prepare yourself for the long-term mental health effects of the pandemic, get your sweat on at home with these free online workouts before reviving your over-washed hands with this DIY balm, and then console yourself with these unexpected joys.

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