I was heartened by the number of replies I received to last Sunday’s post about the concept that I have coined as, Demand Fatigue. If you missed it, you can check it out here.
As you will remember, “Demand Fatigue” is a state of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by the constant demands placed on our time and attention. It is a relatively new phenomenon, but it is quickly becoming a rising concern.
I want to address three additional factors that make Demand Fatigue so difficult, and further steps we can take to enhance our self-care and experience of life.
1. How the ego operates
We have a psychological mechanism that is constantly at play in our inner world called “the ego.” There is a lot of confusion about this component of the human condition because different scholars have used the word” in various ways.
I am referring to the ego as the part of our psychology that functions to keep us safe, alive, connected, and relevant. It drives our inner monologue to ensure that we feel that we are important, seen, and connected.
The problem is that while human life has rapidly evolved, the psychological mechanism of the ego has not! This makes it hard to say no or set boundaries around our time and energy.
Learning to tame the ego, and be lived from a higher sense of self, from a spiritual center, is one magnificent way to bring greater ease and peace during these turbulent and rapidly changing times.
2. The sense that you have to “do it all” and do it all well
One of the byproducts of the ego is the feeling that you have to do it all, and of course, do it all well so that you are not criticized or marginalized by those around you.
Modern life pressures us to excel in every domain – as parents, partners, employees, friends, and community members. But no one can excel in all areas at once.
We need to thoughtfully prioritize our commitments and practice loving self-compassion for the reality of our limitations.
A 2022 study by UC Berkeley found that high-achieving women are particularly susceptible to burnout from the pressure to “do it all.”
3. The extraordinary rate of change
Technology has accelerated the pace of life tremendously. New platforms and apps launch constantly, news cycles faster than ever, and social norms evolve at lightning speed.
Artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and machine learning are just beginning to make their mark on our culture, and we are likely wholly unprepared for the rapidity of change forthcoming.
This accelerated rate of change leads to chronic information overload, feeling like we are missing out on important information or events, and a sense of instability. While we cannot halt progress, we can thoughtfully limit and evaluate the new inputs in our lives. Being mindful about what you choose to engage with and how you spend your time can lead to greater balance.
What to do:
1. Practice savoring: You don’t need to spend more time doing simple, pleasurable things, but you do need to be more present when you are doing them. Savor the feeling of having a cup of coffee, a moment with a friend, or a hug from a child or loved one.
Research shows that taking time to appreciate pleasurable experiences amplifies positive emotions and life satisfaction.
2. Breathe: When stressed our breathing becomes more shallow and rapid. To counter this, mindfully breathe more slowly and deeply. Breathing exercises stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety. Just 5 minutes of deep breathing can impart a sense of calm.
3. Reduce social media consumption: While checking in with family and friends on social media may feel important, notice if it leaves your head full and your heart empty.
Studies link excessive social media use to poorer mental health outcomes, including anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Set limits on when and how long you scroll, or better yet, engage in a “media fast” for a set period of time and notice how different you feel.
4. Keep a gratitude journal. I have maintained a gratitude journal for over 20 years. It was central to my recovery from depression and remains a mainstay in my overall happiness and well-being.
Regularly writing down things you are grateful for has been scientifically proven to boost mood and well-being.
5. Spend time in nature. Daily walks with my dog in a local nature preserve feed my soul. I look up at the trees into the sky and mindfully feel my very essence expand and soar.
A 2019 study found that spending just 20 minutes in nature lowered cortisol levels and helped people feel more energetic and positive.
Demand Fatigue is a real challenge, but with self-awareness, boundaries, mindfulness, and self-care, we can thrive in these rapidly changing, ever-demanding times. Our well-being depends on living intentionally, not just reactively.
What will you do today to combat Demand Fatigue?