I recently came across a term I hadn't heard before, "crisis fatigue" Crisis fatigue occurs when our ability to be resilient (or "bounce back") is flooded with an ongoing series of intense, energy-consuming or traumatic experiences. As best as I can tell, it's a form of burnout. Crisis fatigue, like burnout, is a response to ongoing and intense stress, like that faced by people trying to survive war or armed conflict, economic or financially stressful conditions, political instability, natural disasters, or - yes - a pandemic. Based on what I'm hearing from my colleagues and patients, many of us are facing crisis fatigue.
Photo Credit: Nataliya Vaitkevich, from: https://www.pexels.com/photo/matchsticks-on-pink-surface-6837623/
Crisis Fatigue: A Form of Burnout
This has been a busy year so far. I've studied for (and passed) the EPPP, psychology's licensing exam, I've finished my supervision hours, and I've done what seems like endless amounts of paperwork. This last week was no different, except that there were more than a usual amount of clinical issues to be documented. I've put in several 11-hour days this week, and I need a break. SO...I'm taking one.
When I work with clients, I'm always encouraging people to be gentle with themselves and to take care of themselves. That doesn't mean not being accountable for your actions, by the way - it does mean if you have to take yourself to task you can do it in a way that's kind and gentle. One of my friends recently talked about how the Golden Rule also means treating yourself the way you'd want to be treated. If you'll notice, the Golden Rule doesn't say, "Treat others as you treat yourself," but rather "as you'd want to be treated." So, why do we have so much trouble treating OURSELVES the way we'd want to be treated?
How often do we find ourselves chronically putting our needs last? Or ignoring our bodies' needs for rest and relaxation? How often do we take care of everyone else, leaving no time to do so for ourselves? For women, especially, it's a chronic issue. For parents, it's a necessity a lot of the time. For students, workers...the list of situations in which we put our own care last is nearly endless.
When I work with people who chronically ignore or negate their own needs I used what I call "Healthy Selfishness." I use this term for a couple of reasons. One is that "selfishness" has been a label thrown at many us since we were small children, and it has such a negative connotation that reclaiming the word in a different way helps people see that it's NOT a bad thing to take care of themselves. That's the "Healthy" piece. It's healthy to care for ourselves, and to let ourselves enjoy life and things we enjoy.
So, last night and today I spent some time playing. My kids like to get air-dry clay, so I made some beads that I will paint and varnish when they're dry. I got out my sketchbook and brainstormed ideas for fun things I want to do in my practice and in my life. I worked a little on a scrapbook of the cruise I went on with my mother. Tonight, I plan on watching a TV show, maybe reading a book or magazine, and (hopefully) going to bed early.
Somewhere along the way to being a "responsible adult," I lost all that. I was always the "responsible child" so losing play happened pretty early for me. Today, I find myself yearning to let go, to play, to let loose - and I don't know how. So...I'm going to the best teachers I know - my children.
I do have things I "should" do - I should work more on the business side of my job, I should work more on updating the paperwork for my private practice...AND I also should relax, take care of myself and treat myself the way I'd want to be treated. I should also not judge myself as harshly and punitively as I do. I should treat myself gently, respectfully, and lovingly. And that means paying attention to my need to relax, play, and cut loose a little.
So, I'm going to attempt more play. I'm going to get my kids to teach me how to make things, like clay representations of the heads on Mt. Rushmore, or how to properly have a combination tea/art party. These are the things that make life rich - and I plan to take a break from being an adult for a while. If you can, I encourage you to find the time and do it yourself.
Please Note: The content on this blog is intended for informational purposes only. This is not therapy, and if you wish to work in therapy, please contact your local mental health agency or your physician for a referral.
If you are in crisis or danger, please call 911 for immediate help. Please, again, realize that seeking out help really IS a sign of strength and not a sign of weakness. You don’t have to be alone in facing these things – there are people who care and who will help. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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