Experiencing compassion fatigue is not uncommon when you are engaged in a helping profession such as nursing, social work, etc. It becomes a serious occupational hazard when it starts taking a toll on your mental and physical health.
Anyone can experience compassion fatigue, but it is more common in people who are soft-hearted and have an empathetic nature. Compassion fatigue demonstrates its effects in the form of emotional exhaustion.
One example of compassion fatigue is when, after multiple twelve-hour shifts, a healthcare professional cannot forget the image of a baby surrounded by tubes and syringes. Even after trying and shutting their eyes close, they are unable to put their minds to rest and have some sleep.
Some ways to combat compassion fatigue include:
Don’t be hard on yourself
Colleagues, friends, and family might surround you, but at the end of the day, it is you who will take care of yourself. Therefore, don’t be hard on yourself; you need some time for yourself doing things you love to do. You need this time to replenish your emotional cup. Whether it is a walk in the park, chit-chatting with your friend, or having a shopping trip— you owe this much to yourself.
Know more about compassion fatigue
If you are in a profession where witnessing pain and trauma is routine, you must educate yourself about compassion fatigue —learning about its symptoms and signs. The more cognizant you are, the more you will be ready to remediate these symptoms. Some signs of compassion fatigue include:
- Dreading your work and then feeling guilty
- Reduced sympathy for others
- Chronic fatigue
- Troubled sleep
- Feelings of being unequal
- Weight loss
- Poor work-life balance
- Feeling drained
Awareness about these signs and symptoms helps you fight them and keep your sanity intact. Often it is not only work that impacts your mental health but your life situation too. For instance, if you are working, caring for a child, and studying all at once, you are more prone to compassion fatigue engulfing you from all sides.
Slow down and relax
It is easier to ride on the treadmill of life at 2x speed, but you still need to slow down and relax. This could be as simple as taking a few days off from your work, spending time with your family, doing a makeover of your house/room, spending time with nature, or just doing Tai chi.
You can also meditate regularly and add yoga to your daily regime. Mindfulness is a technique that lets you stay in the present. It increases your awareness of your surroundings and what you are at the moment.
Mindfulness also helps you forget the worries about what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow. This way, you can push back and fight stress.
Make some boundaries
Caring for someone in pain and trauma requires you to demonstrate empathetic behavior. These qualities are what make you effective in your job. Therefore, it is impossible not to be involved emotionally. But the challenge is to remain helpful and compassionate but not lose yourself in the process.
You need to set boundaries and ensure you don’t take the pain home with you. You have to decide how much you should get involved. This is especially important when you are spending too much time with them.
By setting boundaries, you can dispense your caregiving duties. Still, at the same time, you can remember that you are a different person and have a life to return to.
You have to show empathy as a caregiver. But when the job is over, you must make sure to return to your life and let them function in their own life.
Caring for yourself is as or even more important than caring for others. It is because you can only care for others if you are healthy and fit yourself. Therefore, make practicing self-care a mantra of your life.
You can practice self-care by:
Eating a healthy diet
Not skipping meals
Exercise and physical activities
Ensuring work-life balance
Arranging Leisure and trips
Respecting emotional needs
Cultivate healthy relationships outside work
Having positive and healthy relationships with your colleagues is great, but you must have relationships outside work too. This will let you part ways with work when you are finally away from work.
When you are with your work colleagues, staying away from work-related talks often becomes impossible—and the stress never really leaves. Having relationships outside work helps you discuss your issues with someone not part of your work system and get their perspective on your problems as outsiders.
Develop your resilience
Developing your resilience is essential for bouncing back from stress. Some people are naturally more resilient than others. However, it is not a skill you cannot adopt or learn. Resilience can be perceived as an ability learned through experiencing tough situations, appraising your mistakes, and choosing your responses carefully. It is the force that helps you fight compassion fatigue.
Propose some workplace strategies
If your workplace has workplace strategies in place, take benefit of them. Some strategies that have garnered positive results include:
Mental health days
Massage and relaxation spots
Stress coping training
If nothing works and you feel vulnerable to stress and emotional toll, you must seek professional help and join therapy. An expert therapist will help you process your thoughts and emotions. They will also assist you in separating your work from your personal life and developing a work-life balance.
In addition, they will help you learn ways to combat compassion fatigue.
Experiencing compassion fatigue is not out of the ordinary, especially for people who are caregivers like social workers—showing compassion is part of their job description. Therefore, they are more vulnerable to paying the “cost of care”— this is what compassion fatigue is often referred to. The above-mentioned strategies can help you fight compassion fatigue if you stick to them dedicatedly.