In a recent article, author Jake Owensby uses the term “crisis fatigue” to describe the tumultuous climate we are living through today in the world.
He says, “Confronted by a relentless barrage of stress-inducing events, we respond with a draining mixture of exhaustion, rage, disgust, despair, anxiety and grief. We want things to change, but the problems seem so huge that we don’t know where to start. We begin to wonder if we could make a real difference anyway. We’re overwhelmed.” (Ministry Matters: “Do the right next thing”)
Owensby’s words resonated with me as I consider my ongoing response to 2020, and as I walk alongside many others who, like me, are trying to faithfully follow Jesus in the midst of a global pandemic, struggling economy, racial unrest, natural disasters and contentious election year. People are simply tired. In fact, “tired” doesn’t do it justice. “Fatigue” is a much better word. Fatigue carries in its meaning the accumulative effect of tiresome events, issues, and engagements. Tired is overcome by a good night’s rest. Fatigue is only overcome by a more intentional and lengthy response.
Here are some of my thoughts on how to deal with crisis fatigue, however it may manifest itself in your days:
Fill your mind with proportionately more positive than negative input: Limit your exposure to the news, to social media (much of which is negative), and to life draining relationships and conversations. Set your mind on things above (Colossians 3:2). “Whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
This is not to suggest you don’t stay informed or apprised of current events and important matters. But you do not need to dwell on them! Why not try for at a minimum a 2:1 positive to negative ratio in the content you put in to your life?
Introduce beauty into your day: View and meditate on good art, listen to good music, read good literature. Go for a walk or hike in the beauty of God’s creation. Dabble in photography, on either side of the camera. When we introduce beauty to our day, our mood is brightened and lifted up and away from the dreary and demoralizing.
Allow your creative side to shine: Sing, write, paint, draw, journal, compose, doodle, design – you were created in the image of the Creator. Turn your creative side loose. Don’t believe that adult message that plays in your head saying, “I’m not good enough.” You do not have to share your creativity with anyone other than the Lord. God will appreciate it – and so will your spirit as it is renewed.
Consider solitude: We live in a noisy and noise-filled world. Turn off the noise. Go where it is quiet. Listen to nature. Listen for God’s still small voice. Listen to yourself, to your life, to your dreams. Just listen. Quit talking. Stop thinking. Just be.
Keep Sabbath: “Be holy because I am holy says the Lord” (I Peter 1:16). Set yourself apart for a 24 hour period to “unplug” from trying to produce something. Rest. Cease. Stop. Relax. Play. Feast. Worship. The world will keep spinning. The spin cycles will keep spinning. The 24 hour news cycle with all it’s crisis reporting will be there when you come back from your Sabbath. But you will come back refreshed, replenished and ready to contribute from a better mental, physical and spiritual place.
If fatigue is the accumulative result of being overburden by weighty, taxing and tiresome things; it will require more than just a nap or one good night’s sleep to get past the fatigue. It will require a recipe of self-aware determination and discipline to thwart the crisis fatigue that assaults us today. What’s your plan for overcoming crisis fatigue?