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Psychologist Urges Us To Overcome "Pandemic Apathy"

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Christmas and other holiday celebrations have been much different this year due to Covid. Health officials have urged families not to gather and, if they must, to do it in places that minimize the spread of the virus, like backyards.

The call for holiday restraint comes at a time when our society as a whole yearns for physical contact.

Washington Department of Health psychologist Kira Mauseth is counseling people how to deal with the isolation.

In press briefings this year, Mauseth has sometimes characterized our collective response to the coronavirus as something similar to how people process grief.

“Nine months into the pandemic, we are solidly in what is called the ‘disillusionment phase’ of recovery and response.”

“That comes with it a lot of exhaustion and the exhaustion tends to manifest at this time, especially this time of year, into what we’re calling pandemic apathy. That’s a really distinct feeling of not really caring about what’s going on. It’s a clinical term to describe what is more commonly referred to as being really ‘over it’,"  said Mauseth, who is the co-leader of the department's Behavioral Health Strike Team.

She describes apathy as an emotion expressed both internally and externally and says it’s hard to manage. Internally, she says, people just don’t care about the holiday or celebrating in ways they have in years past.

“Try to look for really small, simple things to do, something that’s different, outside your normal routine. Identifying things that you care about, maybe a family member or caring for a pet, that’s a helpful one. And then focus on what keeps us connected to other people and things outside of us," she said.

Mauseth says it might also help to think about the fact that there are two Covid vaccines now beginning to be circulated around the nation.

“The arrival of vaccines obviously brings with it a great deal of hope and hope is great. Hope is one of those key ingredients for resilience and it’s a powerful one. It can be a great antidote for apathy as well," she said.

Mauseth says people can find advice for dealing with apathy and other emotions you might be feeling this holiday season at the Department of Health’s coronavirus page.