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Fighting 'crisis fatigue': How to deal with worry, stress in difficult times

If it feels like things are overwhelming right now, you're not alone. "Crisis fatigue" is a real thing, and it's something many of us are experiencing right now.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — There's no doubt it's been a crazy few months. A global pandemic, civil unrest -- it seems like we've faced one crisis after another. 

If it feels like things are overwhelming right now, you're not alone. "Crisis fatigue" is a real thing, and it's something many of us are experiencing right now.

"When you've just been confronted by stressor after stressor after stressor, and we reach a saturation point," says Arianna Galligher, associate director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience Center or STAR Center at The Ohio University Wexner Medical Center. "It's really just that experience of feeling overwhelmed and a little bit helpless, and maybe not quite sure how to cope." 

Dealing with everything at once can feel exhausting. Galligher has a few suggestions on how to cope. 

BE INTENTIONAL

Galligher says it's important to recognize that we can't take on everything at once. She says "to be really honest with yourself about what energy you have, and to what capacity you can lend some of that energy." She says to try to focus your energy on what's most important. "It means being okay with the idea that we're gonna save some things for later," she explains. "That right now, this is the most important thing for me to focus on, so that's where I'm going to put my energy -- and I'll move on to the rest of it as I have more time and space." 

CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES AND HOW YOU FIGHT THEM

A lot of people are having difficult conversations right now, about a number of topics. Galligher says you need to remember that we can't really control how other people are going to respond to those conversations. "Really, what we can control," she adds, "is how we engage, and when it's time to say 'you know what? this isn't productive. I'm going to move on to a different conversation.'" 

FOCUS ON WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY AND HOPE

"When a lot of things are going wrong, it's easy to get bogged down in thinking that everything is awful," Galligher says. "It's really important to seek out those moments of joy throughout your day so you can sustain that effort in trying to make things better." 

SELF-CARE IS IMPORTANT

When there's a lot going on that requires your attention, it might feel like self-care is selfish. But Galligher insists that's not the case. "Self-care is about self-maintenance," she explains. "It's about locating the things that sort of 'feed' you, so that you actually do have the energy, in reserve, to tackle some of these problems."

Galligher says professional resources are available for anyone who needs help. Click here for more on the STAR center and the services they offer.

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