It’s a weird time to be alive. We are in this society which is valuing mindfulness more and more by the day, but we’re more conscious than ever of the problems that need fixing in the world.
It’s like a massive tug of war between knowing that you need rest and time away to enjoy life- but we also know that there are problems which urgently need fixing because so many other people don’t have the luxury of being able to enjoy life and rest.
Then we have our actual lives to live which can be overwhelming enough at times. Jobs to do, money to earn, family to look after, people to socialise with.
And we have technology.
Compassion fatigue is often a problem for those in particularly draining professions. Nurses and doctors, etc.
But now with the rise of social media, the huge accessibility of news, the sheer noise of it all and the hyperawareness of society; almost everyone is suffering with compassion fatigue.
It’s a pretty big epidemic and we’re kind of just not talking about it.
I always find myself shudder a little bit when I hear someone (usually quite elderly) nag me about how “it’s important to know what’s going on in the world” when trying to discuss world news with me.
Back when people had to make a conscious effort to turn on the radio or the TV, or buy a newspaper- yes it was important to educate yourself. It made you more compassionate in a world where it was possible to be very closed minded and ignorant about the struggles of those who could have used the help of others. But you had to consciously take that action to connect yourself with pressing issues outside of your life bubble.
Now, we can’t really get away from it.
You wake up and walk downstairs and in the morning most things on TV report the news in some way. But then for the rest of the day there are these intervals about the most recent disaster, or act of violence, or most ridiculously; Brexit.
You listen to the radio on the way to work and there is news broadcast throughout the day about these terrible things going on that you’ve zoned out of by that point.
You go on social media and there’s no escaping the news. It’s everywhere. Everyone is talking about it. Reports, opinions, memes, media clips, thousands of news stories being presented to you in a single swipe of the thumb.
And after a while, you glaze over.
You hear of a 15-year-old boy being stabbed in his school uniform on his way home and while you know that it’s awful, you don’t have the capacity to grieve about it. You just become a little bit more afraid.
You hear about another bombing and you think “God, again?” and that’s sort of as much as you can offer.
You go to work and everyone is talking about it but you’re kind of numb and worrying about how you’re gonna pay for this prescription that you need on top of the mortgage and the food shop this week. But you feel bad about your concern for that ‘minor’ worry because there are people that literally don’t have food and you’ve seen them broadcast living in slums without food, water or communal kindness. You try to be grateful but you’re too stressed, so now you’re ashamed.
You do your day, and you go home. Then you’re cooking up a veggie casserole and someone knocks at the door talking to you about ‘are you aware of the animal cruelty going on in the US meat industry right now’ and you think yes I am. I think veganism is the way forward but please do not knock on my door because I’m trying to eat my casserole and live my life.
You sit down and eat your dinner while watching Come Dine with Me and you’re watching these people thinking ‘the attitude on you lot, don’t you know about the environmental crisis going on right now? Wasting all those plastic bags?’.
You go to bed and switch off your phone and read until you fall asleep because of how important it is to disconnect before bedtime. Mindfulness is key.
All this noise makes us act like zombies because we end up being aware of everything, but not able to do our bit with anything because we’re just too drained.
So what’s the solution?
Well obviously I don’t have it. It’s just something we need to talk about more.
What I do to try and deal with it all is just focus on the things that I feel a real passion for.
The reason we feel fatigue, in my opinion, is put down to three main things.
Guilt, helplessness and overwhelm.
So tackle those three main things instead of trying to tackle all the problems in the world.
Guilt and helplessness:
We feel guilt because we don’t think we are doing the right thing. But obviously, we can’t do things when we are overwhelmed. So just focus on the main things you feel passionately about.
Working on the things you feel passionately about with actually make you happy without even trying. You’ll find its your purpose, it will fuel you. Working on something you just can’t feel in your soul will drain you. That’s the difference.
For me at the moment it’s about feminism, mental health, and injustice towards children.
Those are the three main things I care about right now. A couple of years ago it was politics and animal cruelty, but those things just don’t spark me as much anymore and that’s okay. I’m vegan now and that seems like enough.
I use what I am good at to help these things. That makes me feel good not only because it helps me recognise that I have skill, but it helps me use it in a powerful way.
I’m good at communicating, so I blog, I brainstorm about what I can do and how I can do it, and I expose the problems because things need exposure to find the right tribe to solve the problem.
I am, in my own way, contributing to compassion fatigue but that’s okay because I’m aware that it will strike a chord with whoever it is meant to.
You might find that you’re just good at making people life. So that’s enough. Escapism is what people need too.
Don’t underestimate the power in something that’s done because it makes you feel good.
What are you good at? And how can you contribute?
A small hobby which helps is enough.
We can’t do it all. That’s a simple truth. We just can’t. But doing something is better than nothing.
Where in the past it was ‘important to know about what’s going on in the world’, it’s now important to disconnect from the world and live your own life the way you want to live it.
Times have changed, and so has the way information is filtered to us.
So ignore as much as you can.
I know that’s contravercial to say, but the fact of the matter is that we pretty much cannot be ignorant anymore. We’re not ignorant, we’re fucking fatigued.
Read a book, go climbing, cook, socialise in real life as much as you can. Join a club, learn an instrument, just do your own thing.
It used to be a top down society. People talking at you, informing you, telling you what’s being done about what.
Now it’s about every man for himself, because the leaders don’t have a clue. Roll with the punches because that’s probably not gonna change. The good and effective leaders now rule by going ‘here’s the problem so what are you/we as individuals going to do about it’.
Though it’s different to the past, it works in our favour. Or at least it will, when we get someone who doesn’t insist they know it all.
That’s what people don’t really seem to get.
If you are individually happy, that is enough to make the world a better place.
Lizzo is an artist who has topped the charts recently with her empowering songs. She (unintentionally) makes a big societal statement because she is a black woman in a western society and she is in an admirable position. In an interview she said something along the lines of ‘I’m not consciously making the effort to make a statement; my existence is enough’. She doesn’t consciously make the effort to better the world she just knows that making music makes her happy, and through being happy she’s already done her bit.
I second that. When I last got my heart broke I locked myself in my room and listened to her album on repeat for 2 days between episodes of Bob Ross and all of a sudden I was somewhat cured.
That’s basically what I’m trying to convey here.
Do what makes you happy as much as you possibly can, and that’s all you really have to do. We’ll figure it out.