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Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue can come at you from nowhere, but it can be quite manageable. Just don’t forget to take care of yourself while you’re taking care of others.

Humans are emotional beings with sensitive mental health. We not only experience a spectrum of emotions, but we are also capable of recognizing and understanding what others are feeling.

We understand each other’s contentment, anger, and sadness. We have compassion for each other. It's when we feel sympathy and concern for those who are suffering and experiencing adverse situations, we express compassion.

We have formed careers around it - nursing, social work, mental health work, to name a few. Too much of a good thing is not necessarily healthy. Working in a (health)care industry, a global pandemic aside can take a toll on your mental health and the ability to empathize with those you care for.

Fatigue is a state of extreme tiredness one experiences as a result of mental and/or physical labor. Being in a constant state of mental and emotional labor leads to mental fatigue, hindering our ability to be compassionate towards others and affecting our mental health negatively.

Those in the caregiving profession, looking after the ones experiencing traumatic experiences are highly susceptible to experiencing burnout, as a result, "compassion fatigue". They also experience what is called ‘secondary trauma’.

However, with the ongoing pandemic, it is also important to take into consideration the groups that are more likely to experience burnout and compassion fatigue right now:

  • Medical professionals

  • Social workers

  • Therapists

  • Caregivers of family members affected by the virus

  • Individuals who are constantly checking up on resources and communicating them to those in need recognize

  • Friends and families that are updated with news of loss.

So how do we recognise compassion fatigue? It can take a toll on a person's physical, emotional, and even spiritual well-being. Symptoms of compassion fatigue include :

  • Loss of sympathy

  • Irritability

  • Chronic emotional and physical exhaustion

  • Poor job satisfaction

  • Decreased ability to empathize

  • Reduced self-esteem

  • Physical signs of anxiety, such as headaches, muscle tension, weight loss, and/or digestion issues

  • Feeling a sense of hopelessness

  • Urge to isolate self

  • Increased self-doubt

  • Disturbed sleep cycle

It's equally important to know how can we prevent getting compassion fatigue and improve our mental health

  • Reducing stressful workloads: Take regular breaks from work and engage in activities that help you relax (take time to have tea/coffee, engage in work that does not require constant focus and attention, etc.)

  • Monitor sleeping patterns: Maintain a consistent sleep schedule and quality of sleep. This can help you understand if you’re not feeling rested throughout the day.

  • Meditation: practicing meditation and mindfulness has proven to be effective in relaxing your mind, improving attention, concentration, and memory.

  • Journaling: Regular journaling has been shown to keep our emotions in check. It also helps in improving our mood.

  • Regular exercising: Getting some form of physical activity has been shown to improve our physical as well as mental health.

  • Seeking therapy: It is a misconception that something has to go wrong before you can reach out to a therapist. Going to a professional once in a while to check in on your mental health is akin to going to a dentist once in a while to get your oral health checked. Don’t shy away from asking for help.

However, what can you do if you are already experiencing compassion fatigue? Some of to reduce compassion fatigue are:

  • Get educated: The first step towards any kind of healing is to acknowledge and understand what is happening. Understand what compassion fatigue is (you can direct your friend and family to this article), and how it affects different people.

  • Talk to a friend or loved one: Sharing your feelings with someone you trust can be beneficial as it can lighten your emotional burden. They might also be able to help you with fresh perspectives.

  • Creating a self-care routine: A self-care routine is something that sounds simpler than it is. It is a commitment to eating a healthy diet and on a regular schedule, getting restful sleep, developing hobbies that are different from work, and committing to regular exercising. Doing these activities even when you don’t feel like doing anything can bring about the change you are looking for.

  • Seek professional help: If you feel that you are experiencing burnout and compassion fatigue, and are not sure where to start, consulting a professional might be the right way to go.

Compassion fatigue can come at you from nowhere, but it can be quite manageable. Just don’t forget to take care of yourself while you’re taking care of others because your mental health is just as important.

Please contact us if you are seeking any professional help.

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