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Crisis Fatigue: Causes, Symptoms, Coping Strategies, Who Get Affected the Most From Crisis Fatigue

What is Crisis Fatigue?

Crisis Fatigue is the term given to stressful situation that goes on for prolonged periods of time. Our body is designed in such a way that whenever it feels an imminent danger or stress it goes into a fight-or-flight mode. The body then releases flurry of hormones that help to calm down the body. When the stressful period is over the levels of the stress hormones decrease and normalcy prevails. An anxiety or a panic attack is the best example of how our body is able to manage stress[1, 3].

Whenever a person is anxious, nervous, or in a panic state, the body releases cortisol and adrenaline to deal with the crisis. Once the stage has crossed the levels of these hormones decrease automatically. However, in certain situations the body perceives a continuous threat thereby increasing the levels of the stress hormones. This is what is said to be Crisis Fatigue. This is because our body is not designed to cope with prolonged stress and the changes that are associated with it in our daily lives[1, 3].

The best example of Crisis Fatigue is what people are experiencing and have experienced throughout 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. The prolonged lockdowns, ever increasing mortality, increasing number of cases on a daily basis have all taken a toll not only on the mind but the body of everyone. This article highlights the causes, symptoms, and how to deal with Crisis Fatigue[1, 2, 3].

What is Crisis Fatigue?

Crisis Fatigue and COVID-19 Pandemic

The year 2020 has brought with it an overload of stress in the form of COVID-19. This taken together with the access to electronic and social media has given rise to Crisis Fatigue, especially in the United States where the number of cases and the mortality rate is the highest in the world. Due to the constant monitoring and speculation by the media, some of which is quite exaggerated, it takes a toll on the body giving rise to the symptoms associated with Crisis Fatigue[2, 3].

COVID-19 is something that is here to stay as of now. Various pharmaceutical companies are working tirelessly on the vaccine which are on various stages of trials and experts believe will not be available at least till early next year to the common man. This also plays a part in increasing crisis fatigue in people due to the restrictions that need to be followed which no one in the current generation is used to[2].

However, if a person identifies the symptoms of crisis fatigue sooner and takes appropriate measures then it becomes easier for them to cope with the situation. The overall feeling of burnout due to the current situation can make people fatigued, exhausted, anxious, and even depressed due to the current pandemic[2]. Below are mentioned some of the tips to cope with Crisis Fatigue due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

What Causes Crisis Fatigue?

Prolonged Stress is the primary cause of Crisis Fatigue. Normal stress of everyday life causes the body to release stress hormone and when the stress if over and done with these hormone levels come back to normal. However when the stress is prolonged such as during a war like situation or the current pandemic then the body is not able to take up that much stress causing Crisis Fatigue[1, 3].

Crisis Fatigue results in the person having shallow breathing, rapid heart rate, increased sweating, and muscle tension. This is because of the affect that the prolonged stress has on the neurotransmitters in the brain and hormonal fluctuations. Since Crisis Fatigue does not give time for the body to feel relaxed, the person starts to feel exhausted and fatigued due to stress[1, 3].

What are the Symptoms of Crisis Fatigue?

Some of the symptoms seen with Crisis Fatigue include

  • Feeling exhausted both physically and mentally
  • Alterations in sleep patterns
  • Appetite loss
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Lack of empathy towards others
  • Start to abuse alcohol and drugs
  • Socially withdrawn
  • Problems with focus and concentration[3]

Who Gets Affected The Most From Crisis Fatigue?

Crisis Fatigue can affect anyone but is mostly seen in people who are right at the front and fighting off the cause of the crisis. Frontline workers like doctors and nurses during the current pandemic are most vulnerable to Crisis Fatigue. This is because they have to put in long hours and tirelessly cater to the needs of the patients which are always increasing. Soldiers who are on active duty in war torn areas are also at risk for Crisis Fatigue[3].

The risk of Crisis Fatigue increases if the person has a history of trauma, homelessness, a prevailing mental health condition, or has a history of facing discrimination. People who are grieving, have financial crisis, or have suffered a job loss also are at risk for Crisis Fatigue[3].

How To Cope With Crisis Fatigue?

Managing Crisis Fatigue can be quite challenging. This is because the event that is the root cause of stress is beyond the control of a person and persists for prolonged periods of time. However, recognizing the symptoms early and taking appropriate measures can help in negating most of the symptoms of Crisis fatigue. Some of the strategies that can be followed to deal with Crisis Fatigue include[2, 3]

Taking Breaks: For working professionals and frontline warriors, taking some time off may be difficult but if it can be accommodated it helps in dealing with the symptoms of Crisis Fatigue. Break can be for a day or two can take the mind away from the ongoing crisis and relax the body and mind[3].

Avoid Media: To cope with a crisis beyond someone’s control, it is the media that keeps everyone abreast with the situation on ground. This tends to increase the symptoms of Crisis Fatigue. This is the reason it is best to avoid any type of media reports whether it is print, electronic, or social. Disconnecting from the media helps the mind to relax and effectively manage the symptoms of Crisis Fatigue[3].

Form Routines: It is quite normal for a person to get away from routine during a crisis. The best example is the scenario that we have today where there are restrictions to go out or the number of people we meet due to the ongoing pandemic. This is one of the causes of Crisis Fatigue. Thus it is best to re-form a routine and stick to it as best as possible to deal with the symptoms of Crisis Fatigue[3].

Professional Help: If nothing seems to be working out in relieving the symptoms of Crisis fatigue, getting professional help with a psychiatrist or a psychologist is also quite effective in dealing with the situation[3].

Hobby: Taking up a hobby especially during periods of extended lockdowns is a very good way to not only keep the mind busy but also helps in diverting the mind from negative thoughts that creep up during Crisis Fatigue[3].

Physical Activity: Staying active is the best way to deal with Crisis Fatigue. If you are not able to go out just spending some time out in the yard, doing gardening or exercising on the treadmill is good enough. Physical activity results in production of endorphins which fills the mind with positivity and makes you feel good and relaxed. Yoga and tai-chi are also good examples of keeping the body active and the mind relaxed[3].

In conclusion, Crisis Fatigue is a condition that occurs due to prolonged periods of stress and crisis such as that we are witnessing now with the COVID-19 pandemic. This condition causes extreme exhaustion, depression, anxiety, appetite loss, and sleep problems[1, 2, 3].

Coping with Crisis Fatigue can be quite challenging as the stress seems never ending and the body finds it difficult to deal with it. However, if a person attempts at keeping a relaxed mind by practicing daily exercise, speaking and spending time with their family, taking up a hobby for relaxation it becomes much easier to deal with the situation and such individuals fare much better during these testing times. Additionally, being on constant contact with social groups or even a mental health professional also is quite effective in dealing with Crisis Fatigue[1, 2, 3].


Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 1, 2021

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