Heres How You Can Prevent And Treat Compassion Fatigue
Its important to take steps to reduce compassion fatigue. Untreated, the symptoms of compassion fatigue can lead to mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders and substance use disorders.
It might sound cliché, but you need to put your own oxygen mask on before you help others with theirs, Dr. Srivathsal said. We need to make sure we are tending to our own emotional and physical well-being and needs while we are involved in providing care for others.
Dr. Srivathsal recommends:
Post Traumatic Growth And Altruism
Samuel Girguis, a Doctor of Psychology at APU, says of course tragedies are horrible:
But once they occur, we are presented with a choice. If we act on the inclination toward altruism that God has built into our psyches, we can advance the cause of good in the world.
New York psychologist, Marilyn Puder-York, lived and worked two blocks away from the World Trade Center. In an interview for the APA, she shared what helped her and how it led to become more spiritual.
Unless I went from victim to witness, I couldnt extract some personal meaning to make this experience less than pure disaster. It would just be depressing. I think I witnessed what I did for a reason and survived for a reason.
Now, she says, shes motivated by a sense of good in her work:
I used to coach executives to thrive in the marketplace and make more moneyNow I want to help them find a way to put the good in business and be kinder and more resilient in the face of economic downslide.
What theyre talking about here is post-traumatic growth, the idea that you can grow through trauma and incredible life experiences.
Compassion Fatigue Vs Burnout
Compassion fatigue and burnout have similar symptoms, but there are some key differences.
Burnout usually develops over time. Top signs of burnout include emotional and physical exhaustion, feelings of negativity and indifference, and feeling like youre not getting the job done.
Compassion fatigue happens when you become traumatized by your older adults suffering. It can come on more quickly than burnout.
You may still feel empathy and the desire to help, but you might feel overwhelmed by the symptoms. It can also lead to burnout.
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You Should Practice Self
Showing empathy and love for other people and helping them is heroic, but remember that you are also human.
These jobs are demanding, and sometimes, we forget that you, too, need compassion and assistance. Like a sponge, you absorb the persons hurt, sadness, and emptiness, and you end up exhausted.
You deserve the compassion and love youre giving, and dont forget to give that to yourself.
Acceptance And Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is an evidence-based therapeutic approach that emphasizes processes such as psychological flexibility, mindfulness, acceptance, and values in assisting people in overcoming obstacles in their lives. ACT operates under the basic assumption that discomfort, self-doubt, suffering, and fear are a normal and unavoidable part of human experience. An individuals attempts to control or avoid painful experiences eventually lead to long-term suffering. The goal of ACT is not to eliminate certain parts of ones experience of life, but rather to learn how to experience life more fully, without as much struggle, and with vitality and commitment. Further, goals of ACT include reduction of suffering, increase of psychological flexibility, and an increase in ones opportunity to change their behavior and engage in committed action toward their valued goals and outcomes.
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How To Deal With Compassion Fatigue Or Burnout
Seeking out solutions for compassion fatigue and burnout can be difficult. However, there are many things that people can do to try and deal with the mental health issues caused by stress at work or home. Some may feel that they need to leave their job, while others may find other ways to deal with their issues that do not involve leaving the place where they work.
1. Take a break from whatever is causing these mental health issues
People may feel that they need to leave the job or take a break from their work to put an end to these issues. However, sometimes there are other ways that people can deal with them. They need to find other ways of coping with the issues caused by their work, such as:
- Finding ways of coping at work such as getting professional help or reducing workloads.
- Talking to others about how they experience stress and burnout and accepting help from others who have experienced similar issues.
2. Speak to a professional
Many people feel that they need to speak to a counsellor or psychologist about these issues. This can help them deal with the emotional and psychological impacts of the stress that they experience on their mental health. A counsellor can also help them find solutions to deal with their issues more effectively.
Research on burnout suggests that job resources may buffer employees from experiencing burnout whereas job demands may exacerbate the experience of burnout.
3. Talk to a friend about how you are feeling
Pathways For Healing Compassion Fatigue
Lynda MonkFebruary 14, 2018
If you are a health care professional, healer, social worker, therapist, counsellor, change agent, or any other kind of helper, chances are you have heard of or experienced some form of compassion fatigue during the course of your career.
Compassion fatigue is considered an occupational hazard, or a cost of caring, within high-care occupations where empathy, caring for others, and compassion are at the occupational core. This hazard is often discussed in relation to other occupational hazards such as job stress, professional burnout, and vicarious trauma or secondary traumatic stress, to name a few.
There are many rewards and joys to being a helping professional. However, there can also be costs of caring. These costs can be emotional, psychological, physical, or spiritual in nature.
I first became exposed to the topic of compassion fatigue when I was completing my Master of Social Work degree through the University of Northern British Columbia. I learned as much as I could about burnout prevention for social workers and within caregiving organizations. This was of interest to me, in part, due to losing three social work colleagues to suicide within the first ten years of my career. While I did my research in the areas of burnout and well-being for helpers, I came across the important work of Charles Figley, Ph.D., who coined the term compassion fatigue.
Awareness is prevention when it comes to mitigating the risk of compassion fatigue.
How Do I Deal With Compassion Fatigue
If you answered yes to any of these questions, youre not alone.
Many nurses find themselves feeling exhausted and physically ill, and wonder why they cant seem to get enough rest or time off. These nurses may be experiencing compassion fatigue.
Compassion FatigueCompassion fatigue, often referred to as secondary traumatic stress, is a natural consequence of working with people who have experienced extremely stressful events. It develops as a result of the providers exposure to their patients experiences combined with their empathy for their patients. Compassion fatigue can be described as a severe malaise as a result of caring for patients who are in pain or suffering.
The good news is that there are ways to manage compassion fatigue. The first step is to recognize that avoiding difficult emotions such as sadness and grief from patients traumas or deaths can affect your physical and emotional health, as well as your job satisfaction. When nurses write reflectively about their patient challenges and deaths instead of keeping their emotions bottled up inside, they usually experience a sense of release, relief and integration.
A Nurses Journaling ExerciseTry completing the following exercise, titled A Special Patient, in a notebook, journal or computer file the next time youre feeling overwhelmed:
If youre trying to combat compassion fatigue or just want to promote personal growth and reduce stress, try writing and see for yourself what it can do for you!
Clear Difference: Compassion Fatigue Has A More Rapid Onset While Burnout Emerges Over Time Compassion Fatigue Has A Faster Recovery
Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue Affects many dimensions of your well-being Nervous system arousal Emotional intensity increases Isolation and loss of morale Depression and PTSD Loss of self-worth and emotional modulation Identity, worldview, and spirituality impacted Beliefs and psychological needs-safety, trust, esteem, intimacy, and control Loss of hope and meaning=existential despair Anger toward perpetrators or causal events
First, you should understand that its a process. Its not a matter of one day, youre living your life with a great deal of energy and enjoyment, and the next, you wake up exhausted and devoid of any energy both physical and emotional. Compassion fatigue develops over time taking weeks, sometimes years to surface. Basically, its a low level, chronic clouding of caring and concern for others in your life whether you work in or outside the home. Over time, your ability to feel and care for others becomes eroded through overuse of your skills of compassion. You also might experience an emotional blunting whereby you react to situations differently than one would normally expect.
When Helping Hurts by F. Oshberg, MD
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Treatment Of Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue is a response to chronic stress, not a mental health diagnosis. This means that treating compassion fatigue requires a person to get some relief from their stress. That might mean:
- Reducing their workload or seeing fewer clients.
- Taking time away from work.
- Establishing clear work-life boundaries.
- Changing ones approach to work.
In some professions, it may not be possible to reduce the stress. For example, an emergency room doctor who treats abuse survivors may have little control over their workload, while a skilled death penalty attorney might be the only person in their region who can handle such complex cases. People in these situations may require extensive ongoing support, medication to manage anxiety and depression, and regular breaks from work.
No matter the cause of compassion fatigue, a therapist can help a person:
GoodTherapy can help you find a therapist who specializes in compassion fatigue. Begin your search here.
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Ways To Prevent Compassion Fatigue
If youre not having any symptoms but you are a care-giver or helping professional, be sure to observe these 4 steps to avoid compassion fatigue.
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Practise Looking After Yourself
You may feel more distant or irritated with your loved ones. At work, you may feel intolerant of those you work with or become cynical. It might be more subtle, however: you might behave in the right way, but be thinking, Ive seen much worse.
Every doctor who cares about their patients will develop a certain amount of compassion fatigue during their career. You wouldnt expect to walk in the rain and not get wet. Equally, if youre empathically connected with those in your care, it will take its toll. Working in a team and organisation that recognises this and actively mitigates its impact is crucial.
Its helpful to know your signs and responses to compassion fatigue. Questions to consider might be: what are the signs that my usual levels of compassion fatigue are rising? When am I more likely to experience these? What can I put in place to support myself at these times?
Evidence based ways to manage compassion fatigue include ensuring you take breaks at work, making time for hobbies and leisure activities away from work, and having non-work friends. It also helps to routinely check in at the end of each shift about levels of compassion fatigue and openly discuss compassion fatigue within your team to normalise it.
Like anything, the more we practise looking after ourselves, the more we have in our reserves when needed. A career in medicine can be enrichingit doesnt have to come at the cost of your mental and physical health.
How To Deal With Compassion Fatigue When Youre Emotionally Drained
Compassion fatigue occurs when we have to stay compassionate for long periods of time for people who are struggling. It is most commonly experienced by caregivers, such as nurses and therapists who are required to put on a happy face when theyre being emotionally drained all day long. In this article, well share how to deal with compassion fatigue in 13 different ways so you can be kind to yourself too.
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Get Back To The Basics
Very few of us feel like were at our best when were tired or hungry. If youre feeling low, try looking at your routine to ensure that youre getting adequate quality sleep, nutrition, water, and exercise. Often in professionals and people who experience empathy fatigue, one of those are lacking.
Taking care of your most fundamental needs may be just the thing to get you feeling like yourself again. It can also help to ward off both compassion fatigue and empathy fatigue.
How To Recognize Compassion Fatigue In Yourself
Its crucial that as a nurse, one understands how to recognize compassion fatigue not only in themselves but those they work with. There are many signs to look for when pinpointing whether you or someone else has compassion fatigue:
- Extreme exhaustion on a regular or daily basis
- Increased anger and irritability
- Lower levels of job satisfaction
- Reduced ability to feel empathy
- Disruption of world view irrational fears and extreme anxiety
- Impaired ability to make well-informed decisions
- Difficulty separating work and personal lives
- Dread going to work
- Increase in work absences and showing up late
- Failure to commit to any overtime when asked multiple times
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How Do You Know If You Are Experiencing Compassion Fatigue
One of the key signs of compassion fatigue is that an empath will become desensitized to emotion. They may lose their ability to connect with people and find their emotions replaced with negative conditions including indifference, apathy and even anger. This is a downward spiral, and it is important to understand the signs of compassion fatigue to avoid falling victim to it.
Why Is Empathy Fatigue Becoming A More Common Issue
A single stressor, like illness, job loss, or grief from the death of a loved one, can rock you to your core. Multiple stressors, especially all at once, can make you feel like youre drowning.
Balancing the responsibilities of work life and family life has never been easy. But the past year has been uniquely challenging.
A once-in-a-generation health crisis caused underlying tensions in social justice, economic uncertainty, and relationships of all kinds to bubble up. It also caused political ideologies to explode, unable to be contained any longer by people that were already stretched to their breaking point.
Human beings dont enjoy uncertainty and disequilibrium. Abraham Maslow noted that humans thrive when our basic needs for survival safety and sustenance are met.
But when people are fighting for their basic needs while still needing to nurture their families and careers, this results in added stress.
We understand that we cant control everything that happens to us or our loved ones. But confronting that idea can trigger something of an existential crisis. We cling to the idea of control as a way to make ourselves feel more secure.
However, when so many circumstances and stresses hit us all at once, we tend to shut down and check out.
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Start Doing Embodiment Work
Embodiment simply means getting more attuned to your own body, her needs, and the information she gives you on a daily basis. Start by doing what I just did calling your body by your gender identity. The more we consider our bodies a critical part of who we are, rather than an object we use, the more we will listen to and respect our bodies.
You can also bring embodiment work into therapy, through techniques like EMDR or somatics. Start keeping a mood tracker, or a cycle tracker, or any other tracker that helps remind you to pause and listen to your body.
Running Low On Empathy How To Heal From Compassion Fatigue
The world is full of suffering. People committed to helping othersincluding those in helping professions such as mental health and medicine, activists, volunteers, and highly empathetic peopleface nonstop exposure to a wide range of suffering. Compassion fatigue is a type of vicarious trauma that happens when a person is overwhelmed by the trauma and struggles of other people.
In its early stages, compassion fatigue may cause a person to be preoccupied by injustice and the desire to fix it. As compassion fatigue intensifies, however, it can lead to apathy and burnout. This can undermine a persons relationships and connection to others. And for people in helping professions, compassion fatigue may prove professionally disastrous.
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