UK HealthCare

How to Address Restriction & Mask Fatigue

Boy mask
Photo credit: JNemchinova, iStock / Getty Images Plus.

The University of Kentucky Public Relations & Strategic Communications Office provides a weekly health column available for use and reprint by news media. This week's column is by Diana Heiman, MD, CAQSM, provider in the department of Family and Community Medicine at UK HealthCare.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 8, 2021) COVID-19 restriction fatigue and mask fatigue are real. We likely are all at the point where we are tired of wearing masks and not being able to visit family, eat out in restaurants and socialize the way we are used to.  So, why is it important to address this fatigue?

COVID-19 is still out there and the variant from the United Kingdom has been identified in Kentucky. This variant is significantly more contagious than the original virus. Because it is more easily spread, it is predicted that this variant will lead to most new COVID infections by the end of March. Fatigue for mask-wearing, physical distancing and handwashing can lead to carelessness in performing these activities. This can then lead to an increased spread of infection, and possibly hospitalization and death. It will take many months to vaccinate enough people across the US and world to gain the herd immunity that is needed to be able to stop community spread of the virus.

You may ask, how do I decrease this fatigue and make sure I’m staying safe?

First would be to identify your fatigue-like behaviors. The more aware you are of this negative approach could impact you, the more good choices you could make in the future.

Second, make sure you remain connected to family and friends. Take time to call, email, text, FaceTime or Zoom with them. Focus on being physically distant, not socially. Maintaining connections with those who support you is crucial. Being able to communicate, vent, socialize, or whatever is important to you, can make the difference in reducing restriction fatigue.

Third, avoid negativity and focus on positive things. Spend some time each day thinking about three good things that happened that day  It could be as simple as hearing a funny joke that makes you laugh, hearing from a friend or reading a good book. Reflecting on those things at the end of the day can make a huge difference in your mood and ability to refocus. It will help to create a more positive outlook overall. Since we tend to focus more on the negative things that happen, using this simple technique can lead to an improved mood the next day, and on and on.

Finally, try to think about things you can change and not the things you can’t.  You can control your risk by wearing your mask, staying at least 6 feet from others and washing your hands frequently. You can’t change the behavior of others, and getting frustrated by what they do or don’t do will only increase your fatigue. Focus on yourself, stay positive and continue to be safe.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.