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Crisis Fatigue

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by John Austin in Behavior change, Leadership, Stress

If you’re alive today, then you are aware of multiple crises going on at once.

If you’re a leader, then you are dealing with each of these personally and perhaps also through your team, staff, and workforce. But there are evidence-based practices that can help.

…As of today, over 107,000 Americans and over 308,000 people worldwide have died from COVID-19.

…There are protests, riots, arrests, and even killings happening in the US and around the world due to racial inequity and injustice.

…Unemployment is at its highest rate since the Great Depression

…to name just a few.

You and people around you might be feeling that you can’t take any more. Sustained levels of stress have been shown to have serious and adverse effects on your health.

Psychologists have even coined a term for this…Crisis Fatigue. When you experience a crisis, your body prepares for the worst by producing cortisol. Cortisol is the chemical that allows you to be alert, stay vigilant, and evade predators.

It’s a really good thing to have cortisol available, but it’s meant as a short term solution. When it is available in your body over extended periods of time, it can do serious damage, and make you feel awful.  That is Crisis Fatigue…it’s really a sort of cortisol fatigue.

So how do you reduce cortisol in your body and your stress level during crisis?  There are some proven ways to do this.

Personally, you can be sure to nail the basics, including getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, not drinking too much, and eating a healthy diet. Your exercise of self-control will help you to be at your best and to help your team.

Here are some tactics you can use to help your team:

Make it psychologically safe and create time for people say what is on their minds. Some people will be very intensely affected by these events, and in these cases, it is appropriate to help people find professional help such as seeing a psychologist or counselor.

Meditation or prayer is something that reduces stress and cortisol and improve brain functioning. Of course you don’t want to force this on people, but there are several excellent apps available to help people practice this. I personally like Headspace and Waking Up.

Expressing gratitude improves psychological and physical health, improves sleep, improves empathy, and reduces aggression. You could set the occasion for your team to express gratitude by asking at the start of a meeting what people are grateful for right now. Since I’m running lots of online meetings, I do this right now by creating a Google sheet and sharing the link to allow editing. That way everyone can anonymously type in their thoughts.

These techniques are not meant to help us forget about or become numb to the horrible and difficult things happening in our world today. They’re just meant to give you and your teams a short respite and build your physical and psychological defenses rather than remaining in crisis mode 100% of the time.

There are many techniques you can use during these times. I’m sure I’ve left some out – if so, I’d love to hear what is working for you right now. Send me an email to drjohnaustin at reachingresults dot com and let me know what’s working for you.

1 Comment
  1. Mara says:

    Great ideas and perfect timing, I’ve been feeling increased unrest and Getting unusual push back from staff during recent weeks. Will definitely implement some of these strategies.

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