With Unlock phase 5 announced, yet COVID-19 case still on the rise, it is normal that people, as rational beings, will increase their determination to abstain from getting the infection. Rather, inconsiderateness has become increasingly more apparent with individuals venturing out of their homes without a face-cover and not following social distancing measures. It transpired that after six months of dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, many are experiencing pandemic fatigue, also called crisis fatigue. Pandemic fatigue tends to occur when people get tired of pandemic measures and become less likely to follow public health practices. It stems from a natural sense of burnout as they have had to stick to these public health measures for a prolonged period of time.

Early during initial lockdown phases, communities tend to pull together and people supported each other by creating a sense of community bonding. However, with the unlock processes beginning, individuals seem to be worn out to where some will in general show fairly ‘couldn’t care less’ mentality in public spaces.

Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic continues to be a significant source of concern and stress. To compound matters, social media is filled with doom-and-gloom stories and videos ranging from the relentless political arguments between the extreme right and extreme left, the mask/no-mask debate, the protests for racial justice, and cries for police reform. With the unrelenting stress associated with civil unrest, economic distress, and the uncertainty of what tomorrow may bring, many are feeling deflated.

Negative emotions such as sadness, anger, fear, disappointment, frustration, and uncertainty have sent people’s collective anxiety levels to the point of no return. Anecdotal evidence indicates that alcohol relapses, drug overdoses, and suicides are on the rise. Unchecked mental health issues are exacerbated by the uncertainty of what each new day will bring or not bring.

Am I asymptomatic? Will I contract the virus? Will I die? Will I inadvertently infect others if I am asymptomatic? Will I be laid off? Will my kids be returning to school? The list of questions without answers goes on and on. The emotional state that many are experiencing has been dubbed crisis fatigue. Pandemic fatigue may be experienced more by youth and young adults whose social circles are not as clearly defined yet and socializing to build friendship networks and romantic relationships are an important focus in this stage of their life. So, unlike their parents or younger siblings who may be okay with sticking within their immediate social circle, youth and young adults may be tempted to break the rules as they perceive their risk of COVID-19 harms to be at a low. Although not a specific clinical disorder at this time, the probability of it being added to the next edition of the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is highly probable.

The recent Harvard Business Review article emphasized that citizens are actually dealing with two contagions: the virus and the emotions generated from the virus. Negative emotions are just as contagious as the virus; and can lead to “allostatic load,” which refers to the outcomes associated with extreme wear and tear on our bodies, minds, and emotions. Allostatic overload strikes when the demand on our internal resources exceeds our capacity to employ our coping and resiliency skills effectively and efficiently, It can lead to poor decision-making, burnout, and in extreme cases, a mental breakdown.

According to clinical psychologists, the likelihood that there is a specific issue one may call “pandemic exhaustion”, is apparently just a shorthand strategy for saying that people have shown up at fairly a mental prosperity limit. People are engaged, withdrawn, miserable, wore out, and more disheartened and anxious than they have been in a long time. The extended times of pressure seemed to have affected the mind and emotional well-being. The negative wellbeing associates of delayed, interminable pressure are significant. There are encounters that are unbiasedly unpleasant, for example, job loss, monetary and food instability, dealing with a physical illness, or caretaking of sick family members.

Similarly, endless mental pressure can in like manner rise when one experiences the solicitations of any condition as incredible one’s adjusting resources. Starting at now ever, such a broad sum people’s lives feel wild, and with this tendency comes the aversive state of pressure. With a substantial number of individuals who keep working from home, already the wind of “Zoom weariness” is surfacing. Zoom and different types of PC interceded discussion pass on low-constancy data, and our cerebrums and brains need to work a lot harder to get unequivocal as well as to peruse the vague prompts that come so effectively when one is face to face, asserted mental health experts.

The key implication, as clinical psychologists indicated, is that one can think of behavioral mitigation strategies as health behaviors, then use the psychology of health behavior change to gain control of the latest surge. India offers a fruitful ground for creative and imaginative ‘nudges’, healthy community practices in an ethical, citizen-led choice architecture which can be encapsulated within a CARE framework – Calibrated change, Anchored in practicality, Reinforceable through repetition, and Economical on the budget. Nudge Theory, coined by US economist Dr. Richard Thaler, is an idea utilized in social financial aspects that proposes approaches to impact individuals’ decisions and practices through inconspicuous changes in nature or setting where choices are made.

In the case of India, looking at the for the most part viable response to the administration’s call to action during the time of Lockdown offers intriguing bits of information into the lead of people and their capacity to alter and get change. Here, based on introducing the CARE nudge framework may exhibit beneficial in helping the general population towards a revaluation of conventional wellbeing and cleanliness rehearses, and possibly, even engage getting sorted out one’s own wellbeing over more material needs.

© The Eastern Herald
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Dr Gautam Kr Ghosh
PhD (sociology), PG in Reproductive & Child Health. Research Scientist, ICMR National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Beliaghata, Kolkata. Contributor to The Eastern Herald.