Covid fatigue: Information overload about the coronavirus can add to the dangers posed by the pathogen
Fatigue is a term used to describe an overall feeling of tiredness or lack of energy. It isn’t the same as simply feeling drowsy or sleepy. When you’re fatigued, you have no motivation and no energy. Being sleepy may be a symptom of fatigue, but it’s not the same thing. Fatigue refers to a mental or physical state of extreme tiredness and lack of energy. It is common, Fatigue can have causes that aren’t due to underlying disease. Examples include lack of sleep, heavy exertion, jet lag, a large meal or ageing.
Fatigue can cause a vast range of other physical, mental and emotional symptoms including: chronic tiredness or sleepiness. headache. dizziness. sore or aching muscles.
There are three types of fatigue: transient, cumulative, and circadian:
- Transient fatigue is acute fatigue brought on by extreme sleep restriction or extended hours awake within 1 or 2 days.
- Cumulative fatigue is fatigue brought on by repeated mild sleep restriction or extended hours awake across a series of days.
- Circadian fatigue refers to the reduced performance during nighttime hours, particularly during an individual’s “window of circadian low” (WOCL) (typically between 2:00 a.m. and 05:59 a.m.).
Researches show that the accumulation of “sleep debt”, e.g. by having an hour less of sleep for several consecutive days needs a series of days with more-than-usual sleep for a person to fully recover from cumulative fatigue.
In the late 1970s, media invented the term ‘compassion fatigue’. There were so many public demands being made for charitable donations for victims the world over of man-made crises, like wars, and natural calamities, like floods or famines, that people began to feel an exhaustion of empathy: They just shut their minds and hearts to the sufferings of others.
Is something similar happening with the coronavirus pandemic? All the media, both mainstream and social, are full of facts and figures regarding Covid-19, to the almost total exclusion of anything else.
How many new cases of the disease have been reported in the past 24 hours, how many have recovered, how many have died, what’s the latest on the vaccine development front, apart from frequently washing one’s hands and wearing a mask what other safety measures must we take to protect ourselves from the deadly pathogen?
The advertising industry often uses the term ‘information overload’. Any ad, in the press or other media, has an optimum retention value. People will remember, and relate to, the product being advertised given a certain, variable number of exposures. Over-exposure of any product through excessive publicity can cause people to mentally block out the message sought to be delivered.
Like compassion fatigue, information overload follows the law of diminishing returns. Tired of hearing and seeing the same thing over and over again, our brains begin to filter out the attempted communication; we tune it out of our consciousness.
While the clear and present danger of the coronavirus and the threat it poses to all of us is only too real and needs to be stressed, at the same time there is the possibility that, bombarded by a blitzkrieg of dos and don’ts about the pathogen, our numbed senses become inured to the warnings.
Paradoxically, the more we are urged to exercise caution against the coronavirus, the less heed many of us will pay to such vital advice, what with the pent-up restlessness generated by the restrictions of protracted lockdowns.
The mantra to help us to remember not to cut corners in precautions like hand hygiene and mask-wearing might be to mentally substitute Covid with Co-avoid.
DISCLAIMER: Views expressed above are the author’s own.