Stop Responding to Every Text

Your phone has a built-in solution for sympathy fatigue, and you should use it

Tasmiha Khan
Forge
Published in
3 min readJun 16, 2020

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Photo: lechatnoir/E+/Getty Images

For a while now, my mother has been on my case for not answering right away whenever a family member or friend calls or texts me — which is often, as people want to check in on how I’m doing with my baby in the midst of a pandemic. At first, I felt guilty. The people in my life were worried about me; I could at least let them know I was okay without dragging things out.

But without realizing it, the same people who were worried about my stress were compounding it. It can be truly draining to always have to respond right away, especially with a million other things at home and on the news fighting for your attention.

Freeing yourself from that need doesn’t have to be a reason for guilt. Angelica Lindsey-Ali, a health educator who goes by The Village Auntie, explains that setting personal boundaries around communication is a necessary part of coping with stress: “Giving yourself the permission to say no, to say less, to retreat, that is the pinnacle of self-protection and self-love during this tumultuous time.”

It’s time to normalize not answering instantaneously. And it’s possible to do it without ghosting your loved ones — to create an intentional process that balances everyone’s needs, so that you’re still respecting the people who reach out to you without burning yourself out.

Set expectations

Of course, if someone is used to you being accessible, they may worry when they don’t hear back from you. Manage expectations by letting people know when you will reachable and when you won’t.

If you really need a break, reach out to the people you communicate with the most to say, “I’m a little overwhelmed right now, and I’ll be slow to respond.” (You might want to set up an emergency protocol for if they really need to get in touch with you.)

Automate responses

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Tasmiha Khan
Forge
Writer for

Muslim American Bengali freelance journalist. Words in National Geographic, VICE, Business Insider, MTV, Newsweek, Refinery29, and Salon among others.