Johns Hopkins psychologist offers tips to avoid pandemic burnout

As the coronavirus pandemic continues in the U.S., one D.C.-area psychologist is offering guidance to help deal with pandemic fatigue.

The advice includes washing hands frequently, staying diligent about mask wearing and being wary of how close you get to others.

“Trying to adhere to anything extra is always a challenge,” said Carisa Parrish, the co-director of Pediatric Medical Psychology at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

“You can add extra steps to your routine for a few days, but sustained behavior change is hard. Especially when no one around you is sick, and you just don’t feel like wearing a mask or saying no to things you like to do. But the fact is, the precautions work.”

It’s especially hard to want to keep taking precautions if you or someone else you know hasn’t been directly affected by COVID-19, but Parrish said that still doesn’t make the threat any less real. She recommends reading a story about someone who has battled the virus so it resonates with you.

She also advises people to make a commitment to the precautions, just as they would wearing a helmet while riding a bike.

That will help make it second nature, according to Parrish, who said that outside of wearing face masks (and keeping multiple around in various places), having hand sanitizer readily available is another good strategy.

Kids benefit especially from this kind of regimented thinking. And that doesn’t mean removing personalization from these habits — as Parrish recommends, things like getting a stylish face mask, scented hand sanitizer or picking out a virtual game they enjoy helps familiarize the routine.

“The key is repeating that new step until it becomes a habit,” Parrish said. “When it comes to COVID-19 protection, you just commit to it, and then over time, you find you’re putting your mask on or washing your hands without thinking.”

It’s also about staying flexible about what are the best practices given new information about the disease seems to come out regularly.

“Sticking with reliable, trustworthy information is essential,” Parrish said. “New facts are emerging as we learn more and more about this virus. In the meantime, it makes sense to use the understanding we have.”

Most important, though, is sticking with these practices.

“Accepting this new reality and staying committed to good habits can prevent COVID-19.” Parrish said.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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