It’s almost impossible to turn on your TV, computer, or phone without being bombarded with more bad news.
With one cause after another needing (and deserving) help, and one tragedy after another creating a sense of outrage in our hearts, compassionate people run the very real risk of experiencing “outrage fatigue.” At it’s essence, outrage fatigue causes caring people to become so overwhelmed and exhausted by the awfulness of it all that we hide away, shutting down from everything as a survival instinct to a heart that cannot take anymore hurting.
It’s an understandable defense mechanism. Unfortunately, getting to the point of shut down means there is a void in compassionate people helping the world, leaving non-caring and unscrupulous people free to go forward with their harmful agendas.
What are empathic people to do, then? We can’t just keep beating ourselves down with an unending onslaught of tragedy and expect to be able to keep going, but we are also desperately needed in the world.
The good news is that you can fight outrage fatigue and still engage in creating a better world. Here’s a game plan to surviving, thriving, and making a difference in difficult times:
1. Pick one cause to focus on.
When we scatter our energy by getting involved with every new crisis or cause, our efforts become less effective and we become more exhausted. The more we do this, the more likely we are to become so fatigued that we’re unable to do anything more.
In contrast, by picking one cause that really speaks to our hearts and souls and then focusing all our energy on positive solutions there, we maximize the good we can do. Even better, When we pick a cause which we are passionate about, we have the energy to work towards positive solutions.
Worried that some causes won’t get help? Trust that the cause speaks to the heart of another caring person who is putting all their energy into that one.
2. Take a break from all media for a defined period.
Tragedies happen every day, but when we are thousands of miles away and unable to provide realistic help, connecting to every single one compounds a sense of helplessness and, eventually, apathy. Unfortunately, the 24 hour media cycle means that if we are connected to our phones, computers, TVs, or newspapers, we are being hit with the latest horrifying thing in the world.
It’s literally an assault on the compassionate heart.
To combat this, mindfully disconnect from all media for a set amount of time. How much time is best? It’s whatever you feel you need to be able to refresh your soul. Listen to your heart and then take that amount of time off, whether it’s a day, a week, or a few hours each day.
Then, take a walk in nature. Enjoy friends and family. Read a great book. Do something that allows the heart to feel relaxed and whole.
3. Seek other kind-hearted people.
When things seem dire, finding a group of kind people to hang out with is a breath of fresh air. Call up your most compassionate friends and set a dinner date. Find a Meet Up group or support group in your area.
There’s only one rule: No one can discuss tragedies or complaints. All focus needs to be on positive moments, compassion in action, or uplifting ideas.
4. Begin a gratitude practice.
Once your emotions have tapped in to one tragedy after another, it’s easy to see only bad in the world.
Shift this reality by focusing on what you are grateful for each day. Create a gratitude journal, and take 5 minutes at the end of each day to write down 10 things you are grateful for. This simple practice refreshes the spirit, reconnects the heart with the positive, and brings more good into the physical reality.
5. Practice scheduled self-care.
With so much need in the world, who has time to take care of the self?
Running from the latest cause to signing the latest petition to healing the latest broken life, it can feel that there is no time to take care of yourself.
However, denying self-care is the fastest way to head to outrage fatigue and total burnout.
Combat this by scheduling non-negotiable personal time every day, even if it is only ten minutes a day. Schedule a bigger chunk every week.
What should this personal time be? Whatever refreshes your soul. For some, it’s taking a hot bath. For others, it’s a walk in nature. For someone else, it might be taking a drive with music blaring or taking a dance class.
Whatever it is, treat it like a doctor’s appointment or business meeting; whatever you would normally need to organize in order to get to an appointment, do so. Work it out with your significant other to take the kids or dogs for an hour. Ask for help with other things in your life if you need it.
Whatever you do, make it very clear that this is an important appointment with yourself, and you are very serious about keeping it. Then keep it!