We’ve Become Comfortably Numb—But We Need to Start Caring Again.

compassion fatigue

Over the past year and a half we’ve seen 700,000 Americans die from COVID, faced a bitterly controversial election, and endured massive social upheaval. It’s a lot of pain and suffering. And yet, we seem to be numb to it all. Headlines and images that might have once shocked us barely elicit a “Hmmm, that’s too bad.” We are experiencing a type of compassion fatigue on a national scale—and that needs to change right now.


I get that caring about others can be painful. But caring is what makes us human. And it’s in our humanity that we’ll find the powerful sense of connection that fuels us to join with others to solve the very real problems we face.


Here’s the thing: the only way things will get better is for each of us to get intentional about becoming the kind of person we want to be. Rather than assuming others will take action, we need to hold ourselves accountable and work on developing thoughts and practices that benefit us, our communities, and our country. 


That’s why I created the framework laid out in my new book: I want us to reconnect with our humanity and reunify America around the ideals of cooperation, connection, and civility. It’s a system meant to help us push the reset button on our attitudes and alleviate that numb, exhausted feeling that keeps us from acting to make the world better.


I think of The Habits of Unity as a powerful form of “Mental Nutrition.”


We’ve all heard that we are what we eat, but I say we are the messages we consistently consume. We’re personalizing the negative, almost apocalyptic news we hear 24/7. No wonder we’ve become depressed, stressed, and disengaged. No wonder we feel helpless. It’s time we moved to a mental diet that nourishes and encourages.


With this simple, doable framework for uplifting ourselves, boosting our mental health, and practicing unity, I hope to get everyone focused on the same branded behavior each month. The idea is that the sheer force of all that concentrated positive energy sparks a unity revolution that rises from the ground up and sweeps the nation.


Yet, until that happens, we can leverage the power of The Habits of Unity on a personal level by absorbing the book’s 365 “one-magic-minute-a-day” motivationals to form one good habit per month:


January: Help Others

February: You Count 

March: Resolve Conflicts

April: Take Care of Our Environment

May: Be Grateful

June: Reach Higher

July: Become Involved

August: Know Who You Are

September: Do Your Best

October: Be Patient and Listen

November: Show a Positive Attitude

December: Celebrate Community, Family, and Friends


Those who’ve tried it say the plan is easy to put into practice. It feels good, so you’ll want to keep doing it. And you’ll be surprised by how quickly compassion fatigue shifts toward empowered engagement.


Big, impactful change happens because ordinary people do what they can, when they can. We can post an affirming message on social media instead of doom scrolling or worse, publicly complaining. We can donate a few canned goods instead of just driving by the food pantry. We can call a friend who is struggling and encourage them. 


If enough of us make these seemingly small but truly powerful changes, together we can shift momentum away from disengagement, and toward lifting one another up.


Elaine Parke, MBA, CS, CM, NSA, is the author of The Habits of Unity: 12 Months to a Stronger America…one citizen at a time. For 30 years, her scalable and evidence-driven 12 habits of social unity model has transformed several million community citizens and youth across the USA’s Midwest and in Rwanda, helping them feel more caring and connected to one another. In 1993, her monthly branded and colorful habit-forming model was deemed a “Social Invention” by the London Institute for Social Inventions. To learn more, please visit www.12habits4allofus.org.


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