Dr. Robi Ludwig: Crisis fatigue -- Tired of feeling stressed, overwhelmed? Here's what to do

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Feeling overwhelmed? Frazzled? Or, are you simply just tired of feeling stressed out by life?

Well, you’re probably not alone. In fact, the experts are calling this type of emotional overload reaction crisis fatigue.

Our fight or flight survival response floods the body with stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which actually helps us to protect ourselves and flee dangerous situations. But when our brains become continually bombarded with ongoing and seemingly unending stress, it can overpower our ability to cope. Our bodies have a hard time handling high levels of prolonged nervous tension.


The run of bad news we’ve experienced since March doesn’t help much either. It triggers a multitude of consequences including an increase in our national anxiety and depression. A combination of information about the COVID-19 global pandemic, economic fears and national unrest regarding racial tensions and social injustice are encouraging a collective crisis fatigue.

Fortunately, our bodies are designed to handle high stress for short periods of time. However, over longer periods of time, high cortisol levels can create problems like anxiety, insomnia, irritability, emotional numbness as well as problems within our relationships. In the most extreme cases, high and prolonged stress levels can even be lethal.

Crisis fatigue can present itself on a few levels.

It can affect us on a societal level, getting groups of people to feel hopeless and feel like giving up. It can affect us on an individual level getting us to feel emotionless or trigger impulsively and reckless behavior in the moment.


The layering of crisis upon crisis is not only emotionally exhausting, but it also reduces our feelings of social achievement and sense of national resiliency.

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Some experts consider this crisis lethargy a socio-political condition. An organic by-product, of large groups of people living in chronic fear or feeling like they are living in a war zone without an observable enemy.

In many ways, this crisis fatigue is a natural response to the repeated warnings about impending disasters and catastrophes. The social distancing and separation we are experiencing, only make this personal pain feel more intense.

The layering of crisis upon crisis is not only emotionally exhausting, but it also reduces our feelings of social achievement and sense of national resiliency.

Although the world is in an uncertain state, there are still strategies we can incorporate into our lives that will help us navigate through this persistent yet expectantly temporary storm.

When life feels entirely out of control, that’s when we need to take control of what we can.

Invest in self-care.

Have a scheduled time to wake up and go to sleep.

Eat well and exercise regularly; it works wonders to help our body and mind feel its best.

Take deep breaths to manage overwhelming feelings of anxiety. Deep, slow breathing has the power to clear our mind and reset our internal chemistry, so we can be our most centered self.

This is not the time to write one’s unedited thoughts on social media; this will only make things worse and who needs that? One of the most important things we can do is reach out to those we love and to whom we feel connected.


Social distancing may be interfering with our ability to see each other in person, but it doesn’t have to prevent us from showing up for each other emotionally; here is where FaceTime and Zoom can add a positive, personal feel.

During times of great stress, remember, everything that has a beginning also has an end. This too shall pass. But until it does, let’s look for the opportunities for growth to become an even better version of ourselves before this unparalleled year challenged us all.