As cases rise, people in Summit County and beyond grapple with ’COVID fatigue’
KEYSTONE — It’s no secret that the best way to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus is to limit interactions with other people.
However, it’s easier said than done. As cases rise higher than ever before so do feelings of fatigue, impatience and anxiety surrounding the pandemic. The phenomenon has been given a name, “COVID fatigue,” and if you ask mental health professionals, it’s very real.
“When you get tired or overwhelmed, it impacts your actions, your thoughts and your behaviors,” said Casey Wolfington, community behavioral health director at Eagle Valley Behavioral Health. “We are so inundated with COVID information that it stops having the same impact on us.”
Despite the fact that cases and hospitalizations are higher than they have been at any point in the pandemic — the United States recorded 198,000 new cases on Friday, Nov. 20, a record number, according to the New York Times — people are not feeling the same fervor to comply with public health orders as they once did.
24-hour Crisis help
• Colorado Crisis Services: 844-493-8255 or text “talk” to 38255
• For life-threatening emergencies, call 911
People are also feeling less anxious about the virus itself, Wolfington said. Instead, people are more concerned about the ancillary impacts of the pandemic, like economic uncertainty, mental health and education.
“We hit a record for hospitalizations, which in March would have been very, very scary for our entire community,” she said. “It’s not having the same psychological impact it was having in March.”
The reason this happens is because the pandemic itself is a form of collective trauma, Wolfington said.
“What we’re seeing is a lot of trauma reactions, which can be hypervigilance. It can be disassociation. It can be avoidance and numbing,” she said. “All of this is really related to PTSD-like symptoms … we see it across the world.”
Wolfington said symptoms of avoidance and numbing can make people want to ignore the pandemic and its realities. However, this collective trauma doesn’t mean society is doomed. Amy Gallagher, a psychologist with Whole Health, a subsidiary of Mind Springs Health in Grand Junction, said people have the ability to take trauma and grow from it, which is a possibility in this pandemic.
“There’s a concept that’s called post-traumatic growth,” she said. “This is an enhanced resiliency, where you might bounce back from the trauma but also grow from the trauma.”
There are ways for people to move through the feelings of COVID fatigue. Gallagher said it’s important for people to practice sharing gratitude for the things they do have, which is also a big part of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Whether it’s stating things that you’re thankful for … sharing it with family members or friends or even writing a letter to somebody you’re grateful for and sending it, that has tremendous effects on our ability to build resiliency as well as our internal happiness levels,” Gallagher said.
Wolfington also suggests taking a break from paying attention to every piece of news about the virus.
“Be aware of the data but don’t become overwhelmed by the data,” she said. “I think it’s very important to know the infection rates, know your risk and know how risky being with family or more than one household is, but not become so overwhelmed that it’s causing panic and it’s shutting down every way you live.”
Wolfington added that when people are scared it’s easy to become very black-and-white in thinking. That can cause people to decide they’re not going to follow the rules and restrictions that help prevent the spread of the virus.
People should take a moment and think about creative ways to be connected with one another, she said.
“People think they have to be one way or another when there’s lots of ways to connect with family and this year might be the time you have to be the most creative,” Wolfington said.
The Summit County community also offers a number of ways to help people move through the pandemic. Gallagher said that Mind Springs, which has an office in Frisco, started a new program called Colorado Spirit.
The program is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and allows for people to speak to individuals who are trained in mental health aid and are able to provide support.
People can call one of two numbers to talk to Summit County locals and receive mental health support. The two specialists are Megan Vilece at 970-985-5511 and Jennifer Gaber at 970-531-5865. The program also offers bilingual help at 970-531-5865.
Building Hope Summit County also offers mental health navigation and connectedness events to help people move through this time. While she’s based in Eagle County, Wolfington said she admires the work done by Building Hope.
“What Building Hope has done a really unique job of is creating activities that support behavioral health that aren’t necessarily therapy,” she said. “Anything that you do that makes you feel better is really behavioral health.”
To find a list of resources and activities, visit BuildingHopeSummit.org.
• Colorado Crisis Line: call 844-493-8255, text “TALK” to 38255 or chat at ColoradoCrisisServices.org
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call 800-273-8255 or chat at SuicidePreventionLifeline.org/chat
• Mind Springs Health: 970-668-3478 or MindSpringsHealth.org
• Colorado Crisis Line: ColoradoCrisisServices.org
• Safe2Tell: 877-542-7233, Safe2Tell.org or download the Safe2Tell app to make a report
• Building Hope: BuildingHopeSummit.org
• Summit Community Care Clinic: 970-668-4040, SummitClinic.org/index.php/care-services/behavioral
Summit School District psychologist contacts
• Summit High School: Anna Howden, email@example.com
• Summit Middle School and Snowy Peaks: Anita Ferrell, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Upper Blue, Breckenridge, Silverthorne and Frisco elementary schools: Audra Larcom, email@example.com
• Summit Cove and Dillon Valley elementary schools: Robin Ackermann, firstname.lastname@example.org
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