How to avoid compassion fatigue
Support work can be demanding work, meaning physical fatigue is common. A healthy diet and plenty of rest are some important ways to ameliorate the effects of physical fatigue. However, there is another type of fatigue that can affect those in the helping professions that is more than just feeling tired. Compassion fatigue, also known as, burn-out, is an occupational hazard for caregivers. It’s a catch-22 that only deeply caring people are susceptible to compassion fatigue, and only deeply caring people become caregivers.
Compassion fatigue can be defined as physical, emotional or spiritual exhaustion that takes over a caregiver and leads to a reduction in the person’s ability to experience joy or feel empathy for others. Other symptoms can include exhaustion, loss of interest and feelings of hopelessness and irritability.
Ironically, preventing compassion fatigue takes a concerted effort to be compassionate! In this instance compassionate toward yourself. Have a daily practice of self care that includes supportive colleagues, a healthy diet and exercise regime. Ensuring adequate breaks during the day where you focus on your breathing and quieten your mind can help restore your positive energy. Away from work, ensure you schedule plenty of time with family and friends for activities you enjoy. That is with people you who care for you! It is also important to have a longer term plan for restoration that might include professional development, retreat time, or other forms of personal enrichment.
Compassion fatigue feeds on isolation. Don’t wait until you are completely exhausted to talk to a friend, colleague or to contact a psychology service for information and advice.