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Exercising ethics to avoid Moral Fatigue

ABC: Moral fatigue can weigh on your mental health but there are ways to strengthen your ’ethics muscle'

Dan Andrews, the Victorian Premier - telling it like it is.

“Every time even a small number of people make really bad choices, selfish choices, it takes away from the hard work that so many millions more are doing,” Mr Andrews said.

Daily decisions like whether you pick up a takeaway coffee, visit your elderly relatives, or go to your local hardware store — decisions people previously wouldn’t have given a second thought — now take a lot more consideration.

While it is undoubtedly worth it, the act of constantly weighing up the consequences of actions and asking the what-ifs could also lead to what is called “moral fatigue”, said Ethics Centre executive director Simon Longstaff.

But there’s hope - you can build up that capability.

Just as you can build your physical fitness, Dr Longstaff said you can build up a kind of moral fitness when you take the time to make considered choices.

“It’s a kind of ethics muscle that can be exercised every day,” Dr Longstaff said.

“Allowing a bit of time and literally going for a walk is one of the really good things you can do.

“It’s amazing how much just walking helps things just sort out in your own mind.”

And when those things are not an option, or you’re not sure who to talk to, you can call the Ethics Centre’s hotline, Ethi-call, which is receiving questions relating to the pandemic.

Factor in ‘rest days’

All muscles need time to recover.

So just like you might schedule in a rest day at the gym, taking time to do something you enjoy and take your mind off things is one action that researcher and psychologist Professor Jolanda Jetten suggested to help manage the mental exhaustion.

“Think creatively about ‘what makes me happy in life? What are the things that I really love doing, that I find relaxing?’” Professor Jetten said.

She said it was important to think of ways of doing the things you love without setting off the things that trigger fear or stress.