How to Fight ‘Caution Fatigue’ and Stay Vigilant About COVID Safety

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

As the pandemic wears on, many people are beginning to relax their safety practices and return to old routines and activities they used to enjoy. But letting down your guard can be dangerous, particularly for people with medical conditions — including cancer — that put them at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

One reason people are becoming lax about coronavirus safety is what psychologists call “caution fatigue,” which can lower your motivation to continue following safety recommendations. 

Caution fatigue “occurs when we become desensitized to stress and warnings, and we outweigh the valid risk of injury or infection with the benefits of seeking a reward like human connection, exercise, or being in the outdoors,” said Jackie Gollan, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science and a clinical psychologist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, during an interview on the podcast.

When we receive repeated warnings or alarms, our brains work to reduce the stress caused by these warnings. 

“Initially, fear is registered in the brain,” Dr. Gollan said. “But over time, another part of our brain is going to dampen down the fear response to lower the stress level.” [Read more…]