It's stressful enough just trying to get by on an average day these days, isn't it? But then you compound that with myriad challenges on a global scale and many of us are truly suffering what's called "crisis fatigue." it may seem like a made-up term but it's a clinical reality that threatens the wellbeing of even the most well-adjusted people. It's very real and even dangerous. Here's how to recognize the signs and what to do if you suspect you're suffering from it.
Crisis fatigue is the result of chronic high stress. That is deeply felt and persistent stress. Crisis fatigue can become common during times of both personal and global stress, such as during an economic depression or pandemic.
Healthline explains that when a crisis initially hits, people may feel more motivated to pitch in and do their part. This is when most are willing to go above and beyond in the name of fellowship and the pursuit of solutions. The stress might not be crushing at this point because all that nervous energy is going in productive directions. This is when people are gathering food items, helping their neighbors to find stable footing, sewing masks, or rallying together. At this stage we all actually feel pretty good, as if "We can do this."
But that can only last so long. It's a little like infatuation in that we're running on chemical stimulation and we can't maintain that level of performance over the long haul. So we start to slow, and eventually, we come to a stop and look around and the crisis is still going on. As if what we did has had no impact because here we are, in crisis still. And as this happens, even the most motivated of individuals begin to dip in energy and, worse—hope. Disillusionment follows, but the stress levels remain the same, which may lead to an emotional crash. If this is sustained long enough, it may lead to physical problems as well.
Crisis fatigue can be disabling. According to Mayo Clinic, long-term stress can cause anxiety, depression and difficulty sleeping. Some people may also experience headaches, muscle pain, stomach and other gastrointestinal problems or difficulties with memory and concentration. Others may feel numb and completely check out.
Unmanaged stress may contribute to ulcers, autoimmune flares or it may trigger chronic illnesses. Long-term exposure to the stress hormone cortisol can cause weight gain and insulin resistance, and elevated adrenaline can increase blood pressure—and both of these may increase heart disease risks.
We can reduce the effects of crisis fatigue by putting self-care on the priority list. Beyond bubble baths, we need to stay connected with friends and loved ones, even if it’s through a computer screen. We need to find ways to create or be creative We need to craft ways for our minds to move away from the crises and into safe places. From music to stretching, painting to laying in a hammock, we need to move our minds to other places where we can let the crisis go, even for a little while. Most importantly, recognize that emotional reserves are running low and be forgiving of the self and those around you on the days you don’t feel so strong.
Make self-care a routine. Though a crisis can throw us off of our healthy schedules, it may help to reestablish as many of the healthy routines as possible. This can give a sense of normalcy to the days. Limit news and social media if they are triggers—choose when the crisis when will enter your world. Fuel up on healthy foods, exercise at every opportunity and try to fill free time with meaningful activities that bring joy. Consider a meditation app and making meditation a daily habit. Checking perspective regularly and looking at reasons for gratitude might also help. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that like all crises, this, too, will eventually pass.
There are a number of (socially distanced and nine) resources for receiving professional support during a crisis. Just to name a few (though our editors do not necessarily endorse any of these services as we haven't tried them personally), there is BetterHelp, Talk space, and more. Many regions have rolled out crisis lines as well such as this one in Washington. Getting through a crisis often requires help. These are trained professionals who are there to assist and may help you to strike a balance between survival mode and daily mode that's much healthier.
Crisis fatigue can threaten to take the very last out of a person, but don’t give up hope. We’ve made it this far, and we’ll make it through this as well. The key to having the stamina to make it through these ongoing crises-heavy times is to take good care of the self in a deliberate and thoughtful way, up to and including getting help and support as needed. The first step, as in all things, is to realize that crisis fatigue is real and then to make the decision to do something about it.
The light at the end of the tunnel might not yet be visible, but it’s there. Keep looking ahead; it’ll come into view soon enough.
Copyright 2020, Wellness.com