Compassion fatigue is a condition that affects medical professionals like nurses, veterinarians, caregivers and others that help people or animals in distress. It’s mainly characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and isolation.
Research shows that 68% of people experiencing compassion fatigue are full time employees, and only 8% have received some form of specialized trauma training.
People who suffer from compassion fatigue have feelings of incompetency and inability to focus because they’re so preoccupied with helping others that they fail to practice self-care.
As a result, they sometimes experience decreased productivity, affecting their jobs. Some even turn to drugs and alcohol to cope.
Compassion fatigue and the caring profession go hand in hand. So, what are some ways of overcoming it? Here are a few:
1. Learn About Compassion Fatigue
The first step towards healing is being able to recognize what compassion fatigue is and its symptoms.
An awareness that caring can hurt, leads to your practicing self-care. Recognizing its negative and disruptive symptoms can enable you to take control of the situation.
Increasing your base of knowledge on the issue and getting trauma training also helps. The more aware you are, the less likely you’ll be caught off guard.
As much as compassion fatigue is sudden and may be unpredictable, prior knowledge can help you be on the lookout for the common warning signs of compassion fatigue.
Risks also arise from other areas of life like taking care of people at home. People who take care of others in more than one area are more susceptible to compassion fatigue.
The people who are mostly at risk are the ones who are most empathetic and caring.
2. Engage In Other Interests
Other interests give you the opportunity to meet other individuals who aren’t coworkers. This will give you a reprieve from your day to day stresses.
Compassion fatigue may cause a feeling of incompetency.
Participating in other activities increases your self-esteem by showing you the progress you’re making from time to time. This will keep your spirits up even when you’re back at work.
When you have other interests and hobbies, you increase you scope of knowledge. This will enable you to avoid overanalyzing the aspects of your job.
You will have more than one thing to focus on, thus relieving stress.
These activities may also take away the feeling of hopelessness that comes with compassion fatigue. By engaging in something interesting, chances are you’ll start feeling relevant.
Hobbies and other activities also rejuvenate your spirits as they’re fun and active.
3. Exercise And Eat Properly
Taking care of yourself should take precedent when dealing with compassion fatigue. Eating a nutritious breakfast can go a long way in bettering your day.
Compassion fatigue causes physical exhaustion, you can counter this by eating healthy meals to boost your system throughout the day. A healthy meal will replenish your blood sugar which will give you energy to power your muscles.
Your brain will also be able to focus on the tasks you handle at work.
Also, don’t forget exercise. Working out increases your stamina.
Most health professionals spend their day in constant movement. Exercising trains your body to be more efficient while using less energy. This reduces the stress your body goes through as you work.
It also helps you sleep better, which is significantly beneficial since compassion fatigue can cause sleeplessness.
Increased stamina and a balanced diet increase your chances of overcoming compassion fatigue.
4. 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 what’s 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 you’re not the only one who’s been through a situation alleviates the guilt.
5. Take Time Off
The caring nature of a medical professionals may prevent them from taking breaks or vacation time.
However, this may lead to burnout and stress.
It’s important that you take occasional breaks while at work in order to refocus on yourself.
Occasional detachment from the trauma of people you care for reduces chances of compassion fatigue.
During the breaks, you may do some breathing exercises or even go through your locker to remind yourself who you are.
Taking vacation time is necessary too. Time spent away from your workplace will enable you to have a clear perspective.
You’ll be able to focus on other interests and breath a different air.
Restoring your own experiences and being able to differentiate them from your patients’ is key.
6. Keep a Journal
A journal may sound juvenile, but it actually helps.
Writing down your daily activities in a journal gives you something to focus on. It gives you a platform to indicate your goals for the day and plan things out.
Recording your achievements refocuses you on your job and skills set. You are able to identify yourself as a qualified professional with experience.
In turn, your emotional stability grows and you become more sure of yourself. Putting things in writing enables you to question the facts from the illusions.
You are able to see when it’s the experiences of your patients you are eliciting.
Then you can discard them and concentrate on what experiences are your own.
7. Cultivate Healthy Friendships
Friends are precious. They help us go through murky situations that may have otherwise been impossible.
Cultivate meaningful friendships that will be your support system. Having friends who understand what a toll your job can have on you increases your chances of beating compassion fatigue.
Friends increase you sense acceptance and belonging. They support you and boost your morale when you’re down.
Having friends around you is a sure way of increasing things to be grateful for in your life. The right kind of friendship guarantees you happiness even when you least expect it.
A thoughtful text from a friend in the middle of a hard work day can instantly change your mood. Having people who understand your pain and empathize can heal a broken spirit.
8. Educate Others
Quite a number of caregivers don’t receive the right training on trauma. Take it upon yourself to educate your colleagues on its effects.
Being a victim yourself, talking about it eases the pain. The more you talk and make people aware, the easier it becomes to battle it.
As workmates, you’ll be able to talk to each other and empathize. This openness will enable you to be a support group in the same institutions.
You could also create a rotation that gives everyone a chance to get a break and take over shifts when one of you is fatigued.
In the end, you’ll be helping yourself and others without breaking a sweat.
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 people’s lives. It’s 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.
Let’s be the ambassadors of awareness and save a life. The life of the patient and the caregiver and anyone else affected.