Overcoming Vigilance Fatigue

Nishtha Shrestha

It seemed that life returned to normal after the government lifted 120-day lockdown imposed on March 24. The daily activities resumed with the crowds and vehicles back to the streets. However, the threat of COVID-19 has continued to loom large and exercising caution is still warranted. With a rise in the number of virus infections, prohibitory orders have been again imposed in the Kathmandu Valley since August 19.

Any danger in the environment is given attention by the alarm system of our body. The new stimuli are processed using the information available and they deal with a suitable response. With the news of the deadly virus, all of us reacted with changes in our lifestyle. From washing hands to wearing masks, the virus brought emotional and behavioural modifications.

In the present scenario, many of us have learnt not to respond to the threat with the same initial intensity which can be attributed to a phenomenon called vigilance fatigue.

The body is wired to ensure survival but it also needs to rest its systems to ensure continuous functioning. Due to this reason, many of us have let down our guard. After being restricted for long durations, the ease of lockdown has given a signal to some that the environment is safe. The news and comments suggest us to live with the virus as a major factor in changing the mindset of people.

Moreover, it has been five months since the pandemic became a part of our life. It is no longer a novel occurrence and our attention has shifted to other pressing matters such as finance, career, education, etc. This combination of bodily and situational factors have contributed to the rise in vigilance fatigue among people.

It is natural for us to feel tired following the safety guidelines. One cannot expect to stay alert at all the times, even in a normal situation. We require a break to recharge ourselves. In the pandemic, we try to recharge ourselves by spending time with family, engaging in forgotten hobbies, cooking our favourite meals, etc.

But we were restricted in how we could enjoy these activities. The rise in COVID-19 cases was expected after the lockdown but the disregard to the precautions needs to be addressed before the benefits of the restriction are lost.

The economy had started reopening which means an increase in the movement of people. It may be hard to continue practising the chores of COVID-19, but if vigilance fatigue takes a toll, this could spell disaster in a country where health systems are not equipped to handle large-scale emergencies. Individuals are now aware of their actions.

The guidelines need to become a part of our life till the vaccine against the deadly virus is developed. While it may seem easier for us to breathe without wearing a face mask, the consequence of the action may be costlier than the temporary discomfort.

The war against the virus is going on. The illusion of normalcy should not tempt us to ignore our safety. Holding ourselves accountable is the best way to take care of ourselves and contain the virus. Vigilance fatigue is a likely outcome in stressful conditions. But practising timely self-care can help maintain our alertness and prevent the implementation of further isolating measures to tackle the pandemic.

– The Rising Nepal

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