People wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 shop for produce at a market in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

People wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 shop for produce at a market in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

COVID-fatigued British Columbians need specifics, not vague advice: prof

Steven Taylor says most people are following guidelines as best they can

A University of B.C. professor says that with COVID fatigue ramping up as the province reaches one year of restrictions, residents need specific advice from their health officials.

“What people are suffering from at the moment is pandemic fatigue, where people are sick of COVID, sick of the restrictions, they’re tired, they’re irritable… that’s the current state of things,” said Steven Taylor, a clinical psychologist and psychiatry professor at UBC.

British Columbians have been under some form or another of COVID-19 restrictions since the pandemic ramped up in the spring. Those restrictions were loosened for the summer but were tightened up, at first in some regions but now in all areas, at various points throughout the fall and winter.

Current COVID-19 rules ban all gatherings and events, both in public and in private residences. These restrictions are set to expire on Friday, although health officials have hinted they will be extended.

Taylor said that what tired British Columbians need is more specific guidance from their health officials. He pointed to a recent statement, where provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked about what more the people who are following the rules can do.

“For the many who have been doing your part, you may be asking, ‘What more can I do?’ Be the voice of support and encouragement for those who may be wavering in their resolve,” Henry said.

“For the few who have chosen to put aside the public health precautions we all need to follow and make exceptions for themselves, now is your time to join or rejoin us in our efforts. It is never to late to be a part of the team who is making a difference every day across our province.”

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Taylor said he liked the intent behind the statement, but that the advice was too vague.

“People are going to say ‘how? should I tell my friends off?’ It would have been more useful to offer people specific advice.”

He also said that the majority of British Columbians, who are attempting to follow the rules, need more encouragement.

“It’s just like any good manager giving feedback to employees; you start of by telling people what they’ve been doing right, and I think people have been doing great in terms of face mask wearing, and I would have led with that message,” Taylor said.

As British Columbians wait for more advice from provincial health authorities, Taylor said there’s a few options for boosting up adherence both for yourself and those around you.

“Ask yourself; what could I have done better in terms of social distancing over this past week? You might find that you automatically slip into your old habits,” he said, like forgetting a mask or catching up when you spot a friend at a restaurant.

The point, he noted, is not to beat yourself up after, but simply to ask – what could you do better next time?

And if all else fails, Taylor suggests looking back at what happened at the end of the 1918 flu pandemic.

“Look at the big picture; we could be out of this by the end of the year and then we could be in for a great time,” Taylor said. “People are predicting… a sort of an emergence of a short-lived roaring ’20s, where people will become hyper social after all this is over. So that’s something positive to look forward to.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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