Winning the War on the Pandemic: Fatigue, depression are increased  side effects of coronavirus

In this Nov. 19, 2020, file photo, registered Nurse Kristina Shannon, from left, chaplain Andrea Cammarota, and Emergency Room charge nurse Cathy Carter watch as medical workers try to resuscitate a patient who tested positive for coronavirus in the emergency room at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles. The surge of coronavirus is taking an increasingly grim toll across the United States, even as of a vaccine appears close at hand.

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a weekly series of articles examining how Hamblen County and the Lakeway Area can win the war on the pandemic.

The psychological effects from dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic are real.

It can lead to depression, anxiety and a general sense of lethargy. Its names can be called “COVID Fatigue” or “Pandemic Burnout.”

Either way, it’s a mental condition many people and children find themselves in as the months go by from the day the pandemic first started in March.

“We’re mentally exhausted,” said Roxanne Bowen, a counselor at Walters State Community College.

Bowen said there’s a lot of drivers into COVID fatigue right now. There could be a feeling of being tired of “being cooped up.” There could be the depression of losing a job. There could be problems at home with even children feeling the effects from watching their parents or guardians deal with the stress of the moment.

People are scared. Bowen said even putting on a mask can be a trigger, making them aware of the dangers that could be around them.

Bowen said there can be phases in the psychology of dealing with disasters.

The first phase is the “hero” phase when people pull together and try to work together. There is a sense of bonding that occurs.

That eventually fades and the next phase is disillusionment.

“We’ve hit phase 2,” Bowen said.

That is the phase where people start getting angry.

Negative reactions start to sink in and people start asking themselves how long can this last and how it can get fixed.

There is starting to become that sense of lack of interest as Americans find themselves on the verge of Thanksgiving.

“The apathy is real,” Bowen said.

With that there can be consequences. More people stop paying attention to social distancing. They get together in large groups. They don’t wear masks. They decide to go eat out.

That’s what is happening now.

“We’re being careless,” Bowen said. “That’s why we see cases continuing to rise.”

The anxieties of the moment can cause people to lose sleep and have a loss of appetite.

There are things to help combat the fatigue, though.

Bowen said some steps to take are number one exercise. She said to focus on the present and not on the future – or live in the moment. She said focus on doing good deeds for others.

All of these self-care steps and caring for others help with the mind, body and soul.

“I think it’s a priority to cut yourself some slack,” Bowen said. “Enjoy the here and now.”

She said being socially distanced also does not mean you have to be socially isolated. There are plenty of apps that people can use to speak to loved ones. She said people need to keep in touch with their friends and family but continue to be safe.

There is also now and end point in sight. Three different vaccines that have proved to be effective should start being distributed by the spring.

“We’re going to get through it,” she said.

But there’s one thing we can do and she said it’s written in the state’s nickname. She said volunteer to wear a mask. Masks save lives.

“We all get frustrated,” Bowen said. “But we’re the Volunteer state. That’s what we do. So volunteer to wear a mask.”