Hope Fatigue

Lesley Alderman is a Brooklyn-based psychotherapist who recently wrote a piece for the Washington Post describing what she feels is an unusually high degree of weariness in the people coming to her for therapy. She feels she has noticed a trend wherein those who had been concerned about national and world events and visibly frightened during the pandemic now seem exhausted. Related, she feels many are experiencing a deficit of optimism, and are overwhelmed about important issues that are beyond their control. Ms. Alderman has labeled this “hope fatigue” and feels it is, in least in part, due to the fact that humans were just not designed for this level of chronic threat to every aspect of our lives. To counter this, she offers the following practical advice to counter this problem. We encourage you to pick just one of these interventions to start, try implementing it over the next two weeks before trying another.

Take a break from the news.
A total creak at first may be good, but when you come back, try reading the news just once a day, turn off alerts on your phone and, if possible, check social media sparingly.
Take care of yourself. Get back to basics: work toward sleeping and eating well, and getting exercise where you can. Otherwise, find ways to engage in life-affirming activities.
Focus on the present.
Get in the habit of anchoring yourself in the here and now. Fretting about the future is not helpful.
Try a breathing exercise.
Taking a few deep breaths — for instance, inhaling to the count of five and exhaling to the count of five — will help calm your sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response) and lower your anxiety.
Think about your victories.
Remind yourself of what’s working well in your own life — whether it’s your job, friendships, or the uplifting array of houseplants you nurtured during the pandemic.
Be your own therapist.
Ask yourself, what do I specifically feel hopeless about and why? Being able to put into words what’s getting you down can help you feel less flooded by emotions and better able to process the information rationally.
Take action.
Worrying doesn’t help one’s mental health, but taking action does. Look around your community. Maybe your local playground would benefit from a basketball court, or your church or synagogue could sponsor a refugee family. When people engage in local issues, they have a renewed sense of optimism.
Join forces with a friend.
Pick a cause. There are hundreds of nonprofits dedicated to addressing some of the most tenacious challenges on the planet. Donate money to an inspiring organization or volunteer.