Feel empty and exhausted during COVID? It is called Crisis Fatigue.

By: Astha, Chiara

Published On: June 03, 2021

Recently, The New York Times published an article about ‘languishing’. It went viral as thousands of readers across the globe resonated with the feeling. It helped shed light on the general sense of doom the people across the world have been dealing with. For those who have been constantly feeling blue and helpless during the pandemic, it started a conversation about the sense of stagnation and emptiness we have been collectively feeling during the pandemic. 

To think that thousands are suffering from a deadly virus as you are helplessly stuck at home quarantining can be depressing. Unencumbered by “business as usual”, we all got accustomed to the new normal. But most of us are overwhelmed with the feeling that the world is coming to an apocalyptic end. 

While this feeling falls under the spectrum of depression, it is an outcome of crisis fatigue. 

A global pandemic is nothing short of a third-world crisis and it ought to affect people mentally. It has been well over a year since the pandemic hit the world. Along with the pandemic, the world has been experiencing wars, political instability, economic depression, natural disasters and racial injustice. We are caught in a whirlwind of issues amidst a pandemic. 

Such situations give rise to crisis fatigue after the people have surpassed their thresholds. 

According to the psychiatrist Dr. Petros Levounis as stated in Healthline, the crowd goes through 3 phases of crisis response. 

  1. Heroic Phase is the one where people come together to take action and help each other. We all experienced that when communities and support groups came together to help the COVID-affected with food, shelter and treatment. 

  1. Honeymoon Phase is when the people seek comfort in the fact that they have built a community to rely on. People revel in the solidarity they have built during the crisis which creates a sense of community. 

  1. Disillusionment Phase brings feelings of hopelessness and purposelessness among people as they are disillusioned by the situation. After all the measures are taken and the lifestyles of the people still remain the same. This is when people begin to enter the phase of crisis fatigue. 

This feeling can cause chronic stress which can lead to serious mental health issues. 

Look out for the following symptoms of crisis fatigue:

  • Sleep problems (insomnia or oversleeping)
  • Lack of energy
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Pessimism/hopelessness
  • Numb or empty feeling

How our body reacts to a crisis situation 

Crisis fatigue indeed has physiological impacts on our bodies. The stress levels shoot up and become hard to regulate. As the UPMC health journal states, the body releases adrenaline and cortisol to regulate stress. However, if the crisis is causing extreme levels of stress, secretion of these hormones can go haywire. This leads to people experiencing depression and anxiety along with physical impacts like headaches and insomnia. 

These feelings are a part of crisis fatigue. Although it has no official definition, it is medically recognized and affects thousands across the world today.

The overwhelming hopelessness that you feel is justified. Give it room for acceptance. 

Millions across the world are still grappling with the devastating impacts of the pandemic. By now, it cannot be overstated enough that mental health is just as important as physical health in the face of COVID. 

In case you familiarize yourself with any of the symptoms of crisis fatigue, here’s how you can build resilience in the face of crisis fatigue.