Find Something Youre Passionate About And Focus On That
Maybe you care about homelessness, but your passion is helping homeless teens. Do that. You dont have to save everyone. Find one area where you feel like you can use your gifts and talents the most effectively.
If you try to save the world, you will fail. If you cant handle that kind of disappointment, its best to stick to one good cause.
People Who Have Experienced Adversity Are More Willing To Help For A Surprising Reason
Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston in August 2017, forcing tens of thousands of people out of their homes and stranding others on roofs and porches. Millions watched the disaster unfold on their television screens, but one group sprang into action. The Cajun Navy boat owners from Louisiana, many of whom had endured the ravages of Hurricane Katrina hitched all manner of watercraft to their vehicles, drove to Texas and set about rescuing thousands of residents. The informal group, which coordinates using social media, has also traveled to North Carolina and Florida to help flood victims.
Why do some people feel compassion, and act, when they hear about mass human suffering, while others put the distress out of their minds and go back to their daily business? The question has long drawn the attention of psychologists and philosophers, not to mention activists looking for ways to get people off their sofas when tragedy strikes or when governments commit unethical acts.
In the case of the Cajun Navy, one easy answer might be that its members were primed to act because, as Katrina survivors, they had experienced a blow like that endured by Harveys victims. Shared pain, the argument goes, insulated them from some of the bugs of human compassion, notably the tendency to be moved deeply by a single, identifiable victim but to respond more blandly as the scale of a tragedy grows .
Find Proactive Ways To Help Others
The pandemic brings a lot of bad news, and it leaves a lot of us feeling powerless in our ability to actually help.
This increases the chances that, over time, you might feel the need to tune out from other peoples suffering.
Instead, try to find proactive things you can do that make a difference.
These can be small acts of kindness for friends and family, like mailing a care package or running errands for neighbors. You can offer to do this in community groups like Nextdoor.
You can also get involved with a charity or cause you believe in.
Don’t Miss: Weakness And Fatigue In Arms
How To Support A Loved One Who Is Experiencing Compassion Fatigue
Recognize that a loved one who is in a high risk group can be vulnerable to compassion fatigue. Watch for the warning signs and changes in behavior and personality. It is easy to overlook symptoms if you are not paying close attention. Do not allow silence and denial to continue for too long. These dynamics can cause the person who has compassion fatigue and family members to become increasingly isolated, frustrated, and angry. Remember one of the challenges of this diagnosis is people who have it may be in denial.
Gently inquire if you have concerns about a loved one and you see worrisome behavioral changes that are impacting them and their relationships. If a loved one is constantly talking about work in negative terms or seems to dread going into work encourage them to discuss this with you. You may need to take this first step to help them to explore the struggles they are having more honestly and productively. If your loved one is assuming a caregiver role in their personal life identify ways you can help ease the burden of caregiving that is occurring outside of work.
What Is Empathy Fatigue
The term empathy fatigue was first developed by Professor Mark Stebnicki, a professor at East Carolina University. He documented the phenomenon while supporting a community reeling from a school shooting.
As a member of a crisis response team, Stebnicki found that empathy fatigue was a unique concern for counselors and others in what he termed high-touch professions. That is, those who rely on their emotional connection to their clients and patients to perform their jobs.
When describing empathy fatigue to Counseling Today, Stebnicki said, The nature of the client-counselor relationship requires a below-the-surface level of intense and compassionate listening. It requires us to be deeply involved in our clients woundedness and to respond empathically.
Stebnicki was speaking about counseling. But empathy fatigue is common in professionals who teach, care for, or work with others. This includes healthcare professionals, coaches, and teachers.
Also Check: How To Help Fibromyalgia Fatigue
How To Cope With & Prevent Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue is a treatable condition. People who experience compassion fatigue have many actions they can take to help alleviate the symptoms it creates. You can learn to identify the symptoms and find ways to cope with its ramifications. You can reduce the negative feelings it produces and find constructive ways to strengthen relationships that may have been damaged by compassion fatigue. The primary goal is to learn what you need to do to take care of yourself and to help you create a healthy balance between your work and your life outside of work.
The American Psychological Association offers these recommended self care interventions:
- Examine beliefs about self care
- Practice self compassion
- Create community-connect with like minded others
- Help colleagues
- Focus on compassion satisfaction-celebrate the positives of helping others11
Here are additional actions you should consider to help reduce the severity of symptoms:
Develop Your Own Self
The lifestyle changes you choose to make will depend on your unique circumstances, but three things can speed your recovery.
Spend plenty of quiet time alone. Learning mindfulness meditation is an excellent way to ground yourself in the moment and keep your thoughts from pulling you in different directions. The ability to reconnect with a spiritual source will also help you achieve inner balance and can produce an almost miraculous turnaround, even when your world seems its blackest.
Recharge your batteries daily. Something as simple as committing to eat better and stopping all other activities while eating can have an exponential benefit on both your psyche and your physical body. A regular exercise regimen can reduce stress, help you achieve outer balance and re-energize you for time with family and friends.
Hold one focused, connected and meaningful conversation each day. This will jump start even the most depleted batteries. Time with family and close friends feeds the soul like nothing else and sadly seems to be the first thing to go when time is scarce.
Do’s and don’ts of recovery
Compassion fatigue can impair your functioning in ways that you need to keep in mind, so it comes with its own list of don’ts:
Also Check: Foods To Help Adrenal Fatigue
How To Recognize And Overcome Compassion Fatigue
Healthcare providers navigate unique situations on an everyday basis.
With increasing demands placed on caregivers from the emotional impact of working the field, to ethical decision-making, monitoring, and intervention it comes as no surprise that working with a continuous plight of patients can compromise healthcare professionalsmental health and well-being.¹
Responding to these situations can frequently cause compassion fatigue in healthcare providers, resulting in both psychological and physiological impacts. If proper coping and management techniques are not implemented, the emotional response and burden they carry can be compounded.²
Identifying compassion fatigue and its symptoms.
The key symptoms of compassion fatigue include:
- Increased stress levels due to demanding patient relationships.
- Moral distress resulting from workplace situations.
- Inability to engage in or enter into a caring relationship.
Early warning signs can manifest through stress responses, such as headaches, sleep disturbances, lower back pain, and stomach problems. Mental and emotional responses include irritability, hostility, loss of concentration, low self-confidence, and emotional instability.3
These aspects may lead to additional distress or avoidance behaviors.
Ultimately, those who experience compassion fatigue endure emotional, physical, social, and spiritual exhaustion that causes a decline in their own desire, ability, and energy to care for others.5
How To Deal With Compassion Fatigue: 3 Mindset Shifts To Help You Feel Better
- A reduced ability to feel pleasure
- Trouble sleeping
- An urge to isolate yourself from others
- Self-doubt and reduced self-esteem
- Signs of anxiety such as breathing difficulties, muscle tension and digestive problems
You May Like: Body Aches Chills Headache Fatigue
Make Time For Yourself
Setting aside time to practice self-care plays a crucial part in avoiding burnout and healing from compassion fatigue. Assistant Clinical Professor Jackie Murphy recommends finding time for self-care, even if only five minutes a day.
Those few minutes allow you to decompress and prioritize yourself and your well-being. While Murphy suggests activities like short meditations, walks, yoga, or reciting affirmations, self-care comes in many forms, and you should do what works best for you and your schedule.
As Murphy reminds us, “If we don’t care for ourselves, we can’t care for others.”
What Is Compassion Satisfaction
Compassion satisfaction, or the belief that the work of healing is meaningful and worthwhile, is what motivates healthcare workers to do what they do. When compassion satisfaction wanes, compassion fatigue can fester into feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, frustration, and anger. These feelings unfortunately seep into other aspects of the healthcare workers life.
Recommended Reading: Spit Test For Adrenal Fatigue
Come To Terms With The Reality Of Suffering
One thing that can be really difficult for healthcare professionals is to come to terms with the reality of suffering. Unfortunately, as a healthcare professional you will witness suffering more than others in different industries. Its an unfortunate reality of the profession and career that youve chosen. As a healthcare professional, you have to come to terms with the reality of suffering as part of the job and part of life that you cannot control. The good news as a healthcare professional is that you can help reduce the amount of suffering they experience as you work to getting them back to full health and living a prosperous life. If you let every little bit of suffering that your patients experience get to you, then youre exposing yourself to a bunch of undo suffering on your own part. Focus on the things that you can control, and try to eliminate the burden you feel when others suffer.
Four Ways To Overcome Compassion Fatigue
I cant pinpoint the exact moment when I realized that being sensitive to the hurts and needs of others was a prominently negative emotion in my life.
From the time I was in grade school, I remember being very in-tune with the needs of others. A homeless man near the exit of the McDonalds drive-thru, the lost dog, the bullied classmatenearly every day from the time I can remember, Ive dealt with the helplessness of sensitivity to others.
I became a Christian as a middle school student, and went on my first mission trip to serve the homeless of San Francisco shortly thereafter. What left most of my friends with a great sense of purpose left my heart in agony. I had witnessed more than my teenaged heart could understand. I still remember the feelings of guilt when my aunt took me shopping the day I returned. How can I be happy when so many people are hurting and hungry? Now I was not only equipped with the bleeding heart, but Scripture that told me that I was to help The least of these. I had come to the conclusion that extreme guilt was just a part of being a Christian.
That was my first experience with compassion fatigue. I just didnt know it yet.
You May Like: Is Extreme Fatigue A Sign Of Diabetes
Seek Support From Others
When you realize you might be suffering from compassion fatigue, empathize with yourself. Seek help where you may get it, as your only fault is caring.
You need to realize that, to be able to help others, you need to be in top shape. So why not deal with yourself first?
Identify whats important to you.
Helping others may lead to you overlooking catering to your own needs. Sharing your worries with a certified professional may help to detoxify your situation.
Support may also come in the form of a support group. Find people who have been through the same thing and talk about your experiences with them because they can relate.
Realizing that youre not the only one whos been through a situation alleviates the guilt.
How Can I Overcome Compassion Fatigue
To prevent or treat compassion fatigue, you must engage in self-care. While counseling or helping trauma victims may seem much more important than helping yourself, you cant do your job effectively if you are experiencing your own emotional crisis. To help prevent or treat compassion fatigue, you can take the following steps:
- Talk to someone, either a professional or a friend, about what youre feeling.
- Exercise regularly and eat well.
- Engage in meaningful conversations every day.
- Get more sleep.
- Focus on interests outside of your profession.
- Maintain a personal life, even when you dont feel like it.
- Recognize that what you feel is normal and not your fault.
Don’t Miss: Nature’s Sunshine Nervous Fatigue
Compassion Fatigue Impacts Us All
Prevention is better than a cure. However, compassion fatigue tends to be sudden and very unpredictable.
To be on the safe side, we need to encourage traumatic training in all help professions.
Compassion fatigue is a serious occupational hazard as most who are affected deal with other peoples lives. Its not only dangerous to the caregiver, but may also affect the patient and a host of family and friends.
If left untreated, it can lead to dire legal and ethical implications. All because the caregiver was so empathetic, they became sick too.
Lets be the ambassadors of awareness and save a life. The life of the patient and the caregiver and anyone else affected.
A Perfect Storm For Compassion Fatigue
Unlike other disasters that tend to bring people together to rebuild, pandemics make you fear your neighbor.
Pandemics cause compassion fatigue because the price is so high with getting sick and the fear it generates, explains Charles Figley, founder and leading researcher at the Traumatology Institute at Tulane.
The cost of caring is sometimes high, says Figley.
Every day we hear about the millions of Americans who have been infected by the new coronavirus and the hundreds of thousands who have died, often alone and away from family.
We hear the pain of their grieving loved ones, as well as the hardships faced by people losing their jobs, fearing eviction, and being unable to feed their families.
We get burned emotionally when we absorb trauma on a regular basis without a working plan to manage the consequence of the trauma memories and its wake of impact, says Figley.
This is why, throughout history, plagues have often led to loss of compassion. In the early 15th century and 16th century, plague victims were shipped to an island to die and buried in mass graves. In other cities, victims were sealed in their homes and no food or care was allowed.
In A Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe wrote about an epidemic that struck London in 1665.
Everyone is struggling, and so its important to look out for each other, says Eric Zillmer, a professor of neuropsychology. Compassion creates a sense of belonging and a feeling of peace and mindfulness.
Also Check: Anti Fatigue Mat That Chair Can Roll On
How Do You Know If You Are Experiencing Compassion Fatigue
Symptoms include loss of pleasure, avoidant behavior, intrusive thoughts, short attention span, forgetfulness, exhaustion, somatic symptoms such as frequent headaches or stomach aches, cynicism, resentment, and feelings of depression or despair.2
Certain risk factors increase the likelihood of experiencing compassion fatigue for those in help-giving positions. Particularly for those in ministry, loneliness is a dominating factor. Who do you turn to for support? Do you have anyone in your life who truly knows you? Another risk factor is boundary conflict between ones personal life and professional life . Are you able to leave the office and go home? Can you turn off work mode to be with family and be off the clock? A third risk factor is lack of self-care. Are you aware of your own signs of burnout or stress? What are you doing to protect against compassion fatigue?
If you find yourself feeling the burden of compassion fatigue, there are some practical steps to develop your passion once again. These tips also safeguard against further discouragement and despair.
3 Tips to Overcome Compassion Fatigue:
Talk To Those You Trust
The first thing you should do if you feel you’re a candidates for compassion fatigue is to talk to someone who can help. Go to a trusted family member, friend, supervisor, or coworker and detail your troubles to let them know certain things aren’t working. If possible, build a support system both at home and on the job. Things like better small breaks, rotating schedules or mandatory meditation time can go a long way when managing compassion fatigue. However, sometimes supervisors don’t care, or simply can’t do anything for you, and that’s okay. Sometimes just talking to a superior about your difficulties can help by putting everything on the table and letting them know that anything they can do for you will really help. A lot of the time, supervisors love to see their employees happy, so they will do anything they can to help out.
Don’t Miss: What Are The Symptoms Of Adrenal Fatigue