(AscendHealthy.com) – Difficult times can test even the strongest of wills, wearing down the spirit and sapping away all energy and motivation. Does it feel like there’s no end in sight and the world just keeps getting more overwhelming? Crisis fatigue may be setting in. Here are a few ways it could be affecting you.
Bracing for the Crash
According to a recent Healthline report, times of crisis can send us through three potential phases that may ultimately end in crisis fatigue. It begins with the heroic phase, where everyone wants to take action. Whether they’re following stay-at-home orders or taking to the streets in protest, people in this phase feel like they’re doing something important.
Then comes the honeymoon phase, where the community comes together, feeling positive about whatever actions are being taken. But that can only last so long before the disillusionment phase comes into play. This is when it feels like nothing’s working and everyone’s getting tired. Crisis fatigue occurs during this last phase. We can each only take so much, and eventually something has to give.
Crisis fatigue can be disorienting and devastating. Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center explains that the emotional impacts can be similar to those that come with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When our safety falls into constant question, we can develop what’s known as a “moral injury.” This may force us to question our experiences and choices while also challenging our faith in humanity. Nothing may feel worthwhile, and this can lead to a sort of existential angst.
The result is burnout, feelings of hopelessness and a sense of emptiness. People suffering from crisis fatigue may also feel irritable, tired and easily triggered. Conversely, some people may simply “check out,” falling emotionally numb and going about their days with heavy blinders on. Regardless of the direction they take it, the effects can sap a person’s motivation and ruin their mood, which can eventually impact employment and relationships, further crumbling the sufferer’s world.
The physical effects of chronic stress can be just as distressing. According to the American Psychological Association, stress causes tight muscles, and that causes pain. People suffering from crisis fatigue may find themselves suffering from chronic neck, shoulder or back issues. Gastrointestinal issues are common, with sufferers often struggling to cope with pain, motility issues, vomiting and/or gastric reflux.
Chronic, heightened stress may exacerbate asthma and COPD symptoms, and it can have adverse effects on the cardiovascular system as well, increasing heart attack and stroke risks. It can also affect the endocrine system, potentially contributing to metabolic disorders, chronic fatigue, inflammation and immune system dysfunction.
Overcoming Crisis Fatigue
The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends handling times of extreme and persistent crisis by following four principles:
- Take care of yourself. You’re no good to anyone if you’re not functioning. Self-care is vital during these times, so do everything in your power to take personal time, eat right, get enough sleep, exercise, drink plenty of water and limit alcohol consumption.
- Be patient. The crisis may not end overnight, but it will eventually end. Focusing on the seemingly endless darkness ahead will only fuel the fatigue.
- Stay connected. Even during times when social events can be difficult to impossible, such as during a pandemic, there are ways to keep that human connection going. Try these creative social distancing ideas.
- Seek out the positive. Thoughts affect emotions, so focusing on all the bad news out there will only fortify any grief you’re already feeling. Cut out sources of negativity, even if that means taking a social media and news break, and seek out avenues that will bring you happiness and hope instead.
Part of weathering a long-lasting emotional storm is finding ways to keep your emotional cup filled. Whether you enjoy a creative outlet, getting out in nature or have some other hobby, this is the time to embrace it. You might also try active yoga or other coping techniques.
Crisis fatigue can threaten to make any bad situation worse, so it’s important to know the signs. Being proactive about self-care and coping techniques can help. We can survive times of crisis, but it’s up to each of us to take care of ourselves as well as one another to make it happen.
~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension
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