Ten Strategies to Deal with Crisis Fatigue

Ten Strategies to Deal with Crisis Fatigue

Are you experiencing crisis fatigue? Some call it a “mental fog” or “pandemic fatigue.” While not an official clinical disorder at this time, crisis fatigue is a stressful emotional state many people are experiencing as the pandemic wears on. One year later and we are still dealing with the loss of normalcy in our every day lives, with no clear picture of what the future will look like.

Instead of waiting for there to be an end in sight, employers should develop strategies that can help their organizations build resiliency over the long run and emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever.

What Is Crisis Fatigue?

Crisis fatigue is the feeling of being overwhelmed and defeated while going through a crisis. It is an emotional, cognitive, and physical exhaustion that can occur when we are in a heightened state of fight or flight physiologically for a long period of time.

Crisis fatigue may make you feel helpless. It can appear as anxiety, irritability, fatigue, pain, relationship disruption, or disorganization of thoughts. Stressors, and particularly worry and uncertainty, can lead to this crisis fatigue if you are not maintaining your own self-care.

Our emotional responses to the pandemic look different now than they did during the first wave in the spring or the dip in summer. Our initial psychological emergency response, called arousal, gave us the adrenaline to stay alert and activate our resources (Harvard Business Review, 2020). Now that people are becoming “bored, disconnected, and unnerved,” personal resilience relies on psychological stamina and perseverance (HBR, 2020).

Researchers at Harvard Medical School identify four stages of crisis response (Kyani, 2020).

  1. Heroic Stage – Individuals band together on the onset of a crisis to determine how to survive.
  2. Honeymoon Stage – Individuals recognize they are in the same “boat” as others and feel identity with others taking the same steps necessary for survival.
  3. Disillusionment Stage – Individuals begin to feel physically and emotionally exhausted. Hypervigilance can turn into irritation, rage, or despair.
  4. Fatigue Stage – The human body cannot sustain high levels of cortisol and adrenaline over long periods of time, so the result is crash or burnout. This can cause a person to feel withdrawn and can also result in pessimism and meaninglessness. This mental state also leads to more risky and harmful behaviours.

Strategies for Employers and Employees

  1. Take action now instead of waiting until “COVID-19 is over.” Prevent or intervene in your team’s burnout now so that you come out of the crisis stronger.
  2. Develop strong psychological health programs. Prioritize your team’s mental health just as much as their physical health.
  3. Develop resiliency tools. Come up with strategies for physical, social, thinking, emotional, and spiritual resiliency to help you cope with change and difficult experiences.
  4. Practice self-care. Choose one self-care activity a day to refill your emotional well.
  5. Practice daily mindfulness. Try breathing deeply or using grounding techniques to focus your awareness on the present, acknowledge your emotions, and let go of negative energy.
  6. Focus on problems you can control.  Instead of catastrophizing and thinking about scenarios that may or not happen in the future, focus on real problem worries that need solutions right now.
  7. Stick to a routine to create stability. Do your best to follow your usual schedule and make time to a live a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
  8. Cut out negative self talk. Don’t let your internal narrative perpetuate feelings of hopelessness.
  9. Eliminate negative coping strategies. Alcohol, drugs, and other coping strategies may seem helpful in the short-term, but they can have serious negative consequences.
  10. Use your support system. Talk to friends and family about your feelings and get their support if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

Bonus Strategy

Ask an Occupational Therapist for help! Occupational Therapists are the ideal mental health professionals for supporting your employees. Their knowledge of the workplace allows them to help modify jobs and environments and give employees to tools to develop personal strategies. They are not just talk therapists—they are activity and strategy-based and they empower employees to take ownership of their function and productivity. They practice work-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is an evidence-based approach to ensuring that employees can have better self-care and resiliency.

How Can Gowan Consulting Help?

Gowan Consulting is a national organization with more than 150 Occupational Therapists across Canada. We provide Occupational Therapy coaching virtually and onsite. Ease of access and proactive onsite or virtual support ensures that employees can stay at or return to work.

  • We want to help your organization – make a referral here or contact us at gowanhealth@gowanhealth.com to learn more about how we can help your team manage crisis fatigue.
  • Our virtual office ergonomic assessments are now ON SALE for a limited time! Now until April 30th, get $100 off – that’s only $300 for a virtual ergonomic assessment! Make a referral here to take full advantage of the deal.
  • Check out our new Working from Home Series! Our webinars cover mental health, home ergonomics, tips for working during COVID-19, and more. Get the webinar bundle for yourself or for your whole organization!
  • Manager Mental Health Training is now running all year long! Get a full list of dates and more information on the sessions here.
  • TIPS for Return to the Workplace Program – Consider enrolling in our new 4-session work-focused CBT program to assist you or your employees in having the strategies to successfully return to work.
  • Sign up for our Mental Health, Resilience, and Stress Management webinar to learn the tools and strategies to manage your stress and maintain your mental health.
  • Want more training? Nancy Gowan will be a keynote speaker at Infonex’s 20th annual Managing Your Duty to Accommodate professional development event! This conference is specifically designed to guide HR, legal and disability management leaders discover best practices for the employer’s role in the accommodation process in today’s rapidly evolving workplace environment. The event takes place March 30-31. Find out more here.

Works Cited

How to Overcome Crisis Fatigue: The Complete Guide, Brad Russell, Kyani, August 3, 2020, https://www.kyaniteamgenesis.com.au/how-to-overcome-crisis-fatigue/

How to Lead When Your Team is Exhausted – And You Are Too, Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg, Harvard Business Review, December 15, 2020, https://hbr-org.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/hbr.org/amp/2020/12/how-to-lead-when-your-team-is-exhausted-and-you-are-too

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