What is compassion fatigue?
Compassion fatigue is empathizing with people that are dealing with trauma. Because you have so much compassion, it can cause feelings of burnout and emotional exhaustion. Compassion fatigue and burnout are not the same, but some of the symptoms overlap. Researchers like to think of this condition as second hand trauma. According to The American Institute on Stress, compassion fatigue can be identified as feelings of helplessness, increased frustration, decreased patience, and isolation from others. It can also be shown in physician symptoms, such as weight change and an upset stomach. It is very common, especially in caregivers.
How can I deal with it?
Aging Care has developed a list of self care activities to manage compassion fatigue. Some of the most effective ideas are:
– Taking an extended break (if possible)
– Taking five minutes out of the day to do something you enjoy
– Calling up a close friend
– Making a list of your prioritized needs
These feelings may be overwhelming and hard to manage throughout the day. Taking time for yourself is very important throughout your caregiver journey. In times of COVID-19, US News recognized that compassion fatigue levels may be at a peak. Now, more than ever, caregivers are forced to ignore their feelings and put others first.
In order to lessen this burden, Dr. Eric Gentry coined the term, “rediscovery compassion resilience.” In his book, Professional Resilience, he talks about the power of communication. By talking to others about your experiences with it, compassion fatigue awareness is increased. There are numerous books surrounding this concept of compassion fatigue. It is a common theme in those who serve others for a living. Even Mother Teresa recognized this exhaustion and prompted healing breaks for her nuns. Sharing stories and connecting with others shows that you are not alone in these feelings.