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Experts warn about 'quarantine fatigue'

After months of hand washing and face masks, it can be all too easy to forget the importance of safe social distancing.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

For three months we've been told to wash our hands, wear a mask in public and stay six feet away from others to combat the spread of coronavirus. But as more businesses, restaurants and activities reopen across Minnesota, you might be eager to get out of the house and get back to a "normal" routine, even though there are still risks.

Quarantine fatigue, or caution fatigue, is being observed in people across the country. Months of stress and mental exhaustion have been building, with worries about our health, safety and the economy.

Caution fatigue "occurs when people show low motivation or energy to comply with safety guidelines," said Jacqueline Gollan, who holds two professorships at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a recent CNN report.

"It's reflected when we become impatient with warnings, or we don't believe the warnings to be real or relevant, or we de-emphasize the actual risk," she added. "And in doing that, we then bend rules or stop safety behaviors like washing hands, wearing masks and social distancing."

And doctors worry that built-up exhaustion could lead people to relax their safe coronavirus practices, causing a spike in cases.

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Families have had to adapt to new routines throughout the pandemic, especially those with young kids doing distance learning. And now with summer in full swing, the feeling of cabin fever will probably hit sooner than later.

When it comes to helping your kids cope, Dr. Mary Beth Lardizabal, Allina Health's Medical Director for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, recommends listening to your kids concerns and setting a good example when it comes to getting sleep and eating healthy.

She also says families should unplug and get outside to blow off some steam.

"There is the need for play, to discharge energy, to exercise and have some fun. We don't want to have kids be overwhelmed and start to think only about the worst case scenario," said Dr. Lardizabal.

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