Sustainability Fatigue - the Two Hows

Looking at the Merriam-Webster dictionary on the definition of Fatigue, I found the following.

Fatigue, noun
2a: weariness or exhaustion from labor, exertion, or stress.

Hm, interesting. Yes, it's somewhat like that. But, maybe not the same. Then I read along.

2c: a state or attitude of indifference or apathy brought on by overexposure (as to a repeated series of similar events or appeals).

There we are. This is how I would describe the feeling I experienced from time to time. Especially at the end of the last year. Even writing this article felt a bit apathetic in the beginning... I wonder what Merriam-Webster has to say about the word apathetic?

Now, this is not a lesson in English dictionary, and I am, by no means, a person to give you one. This is a story of the state of indifference or apathy brought on by overexposure. I couldn't help myself, sorry. Overexposure to sustainability-related content. The state I fell into a couple of times in the past. The state I'll fall into in future, probably.

This is a story for all of you who feel, or have felt, the same. Or at least somewhat similar. It also has a selfish goal - it is a lesson for my future self on how not to fall into that trap again.

How it all started?

Imagine you're in nature, surrounded by greenery. Trees, plants, meadows... Everything is perfect! In the background you can hear the soft sound of birds chirping, wind blowing. It's idyllic. You enjoy it...

This is how I felt in the beginning, with all my brain juices flowing. Exploring the possibilities on how to make our planet better, simpler, more sustainable.

And I read along. Days on end, even weeks. Not all the time, but whenever I had some moment to spare. All those news, e-mails, how-to guides, videos, posts here and there...

In my head, it all started to change. Trees were cut down, plants were drying, meadows covered with concrete buildings... All you can hear in the background is the endless hum of the traffic with the sound of an emergency vehicle from time to time...

This was the feeling I ended up with. By continuously immersing myself in the topic. Reading about the solutions, but somehow getting more and more aware of the problems. News weren't great, either. Both on a local and global level.

It started as an optimistic quest wrapped in green. And it ended as a pessimistic reality wrapped in dark gray.

The feeling itself wasn't immediate. It was the result of an ongoing content consumption. The process of getting into fatigue wrapped in dark gray was slow. I wasn't aware of it for quite a while. Up until I saw how I felt reading about the consequences of global warming some time ago. It was the feeling you can explain with the simple word - meh! Which was, if we consult Merriam-Webster dictionary, again, to the point.

apathetic, indifferent.

How to cope?

When something is wrong in my life, I feel different, or somehow strange, I turn to books. They're my first line of defence. I tried reading a couple of them, but nothing felt right. I felt disconnected from each of them I took.

After that, I turned to my second line of defence - something to listen to or watch. Podcasts, conference talks, documentaries... Result was the same - nada.

All those things like: Five easy steps to recover from fatigue; Do this, and you'll be better; Check this great advice on how to X and Y... It all reminded me of a book called - McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality, by Ronald Purser. Just a note, I didn't read it, yet, but I found the title somehow convenient.

Then, I took a step back. I was trying to fix the feeling of overexposure with another one. That same overexposure, but to other type of content. Like fighting fire with fire. Which in some cases makes sense. However, in this case, it didn't. My focus and attention needed a rest. My brain needed a rest.

So, I just stopped. Stopped checking all the news. Stopped reading all those newsletters, blogs, articles... Listening all those podcasts. Yes, even The Huberman Lab.

Instead of push-based, I took the pull-based approach. I felt that information was getting pushed to me all the time. Via e-mails, notifications, pop-ups, and what-nots... In a pull-based approach, you control when you get the information. When and how you want to get the information.

Now, is there an app for that? Well, yes, sort of. It's actually a functionality that's been there all the time.

All apps were designed to shoot dopamine in your brain with all those pop-ups and notifications. Most of them not even relevant or necessary. Yes, I'm looking at you, LinkedIn! Now, the thing that you can do is just to turn off all those notifications. All applications allow that. Or the system you're using allows it. In that way, you can control how you get the information. Simple as that.

If you think you need to be online all the time, that is also okay. I hope you can manage it. I can't. Let me tell you this, and I'm aware it's a boomer-alert, I think if something is dead-urgent, people will always call. Either by phone or some application of choice. I tend to leave the call notifications on. For the apps I use the most frequently at least.

And that's it. That is how I manage. Somehow I manage.

So, what are some results? Well, at first, it was a bit strange. A couple of times I caught myself reaching for a phone and looking for some new thing, notification, e-mail, anything... Just to feel the excitement. Then, that desire started to slowly fade away. I often see myself leaving the phone unchecked for quite some time. And yes, when it was urgent, people called.

This approach helps me sort out the plethora of information I'm bombarded with every day. And see that it's not everything so dark gray and pessimistic...

Now I need to go, I heard my phone buzzing.