In the past, compassion fatigue was usually reserved for those in the caring professions (nurses/careworkers etc), but in today’s modern, fast-paced world any of us are susceptible to suffering from compassion fatigue. As the name suggests, it’s about feeling tired and exhausted from caring or giving out energy to others, which is why it was common for health workers to suffer from it. Now, with anxiety-inducing 24 hour news and more and more of us taking on caring roles for family members, compassion fatigue is no longer limited to certain professions. Any of us can be affected by compassion fatigue.
Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue
One of the major symptoms of compassion fatigue is feeling burdened by the suffering of others. Other symptoms include:
• Blaming others for their suffering
• Isolating yourself
• Loss of pleasure in life
• Difficulty concentrating
• Poor self-care
• Physical and mental exhaustion
• Bottling up your emotions
• Nightmares or night terrors
• Feeling hopeless
• Overly complaining about your work or your life
• Overuse of drugs or alcohol
Denial is apparently one of the most detrimental symptoms as it prevents sufferers from realising how tired and fatigued they feel, which stops them from getting the proper treatment. Awareness is the first step to recovery. You can take this Professional Quality of Life (ProQol) Questionnaire to get feedback about compassion fatigue, burnout and stress.
Ways To Protect Yourself From Compassion Fatigue
It can be difficult to protect yourself if you’re looking after someone or in a caring role on a daily basis. Even if you’re not, just being alive right now can be really upsetting and stressful. So much is happening politically and socially that is upsetting to anyone that is sensitive or caring. Here are some ways to protect yourself:
- Be grateful for what is going well in your life and the world, try to focus on the positive
- Avoid the news or newspapers as this can really bring us down
- Try to accept that we have little or no control over a lot of the suffering in the world
- Start showing compassion to yourself, taking time out for yourself and creating more space for YOU
- Try to find some meaning in the suffering that you see
Self-help for Compassion Fatigue
- Accept where you are right now. Don’t try and sugarcoat it or deny what’s happening.
- Be kind and compassionate towards yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling burnout or ill.
- Take positive action to change your environment/even in small ways.
- Work out your personal boundaries and start to state these to others
- Find out more about compassion fatigue so you know how to feel better
- Express your needs to trusted loved ones/friends
If you’re feeling very burnt out/depressed/down then getting professional support and therapy can be really helpful. I use a combination of therapeutic techniques to help you to get back in balance (Hypnotherapy, EFT, BWRT).