The COVID-19 pandemic, paired with the systemic issues of racism as well as economic distress in our country, have compounded to result in unprecedented levels of stress for Americans who are now experiencing what psychologists are coining “crisis fatigue.” This phenomenon presents when our bodies become overwhelmed by the cortisol and adrenaline associated with our natural response to stress, commonly known as the “fight or flight” response. While our bodies are well adapted to handle temporary stressors, they become overwhelmed by constant and unrelenting pressures like those many are experiencing this year.
If one sustains a chronic elevated level of stress, problems can result that may include anxiety, depression, insomnia, weight gain, high blood pressure and bone loss. For those who are managing mental illness, repeated high stress levels can interfere with treatment and stability and increase the need for therapy and medication to help combat new difficulties. It is normal to be feeling a mixture of exhaustion, rage, despair, desperation, hypervigilance, anxiety and grief right now. Acknowledging all of these feelings, however they are presenting themselves, is important. Additional tips to manage crisis fatigue include:
- Be intentional about how you are spending your energy: Prioritize things you can control or influence and spend less energy on things that induce negative feelings, no matter how small.
- Choose your battles and how you will fight them: While you can’t control how others react to the situations around you, you can control your response. Decide how you’ll approach adversity and be sure you understand when to disengage from conversations or situations that are mentally and emotionally draining and/or unproductive.
- Focus on the things that bring you joy: Try making gratitude lists and noting the things that you are thankful for. This carves out moments for you to escape your negative thoughts in a productive way.
- Make time for self-care: Give yourself permission to take breaks from the stress you are feeling. Aim to engage in healthy distractions and soothing activities to allow your body and mind to rest.
- Reach out for support: It is a sign of strength to ask for help. Whether you connect with a trusted friend or seek help from mental health professionals, don’t be afraid to address problems head on.
At LSF Health Systems, we are proud to work with our 60 Behavioral Health Network Provider Organizations that provide care and resources for people with mental health and/or substance use issues. Our Access to Care Line, open 24/7, is available to connect you to community resources. Call us at 1-877-229-9098.
Dr. Christine Cauffield, CEO