Compassion Fatigue

Many of us are natural caregivers, nurturers, helpers…it’s what we do and it’s who we are. Some of us use our skills in a caregiving career. Some of us are caregivers at home or in our communities. Some do all three! It’s no wonder why over time we become emotionally and physically exhausted, sick, or can’t sleep.

Because it’s part of our nature and we can’t simply turn it off, our constant helping activities can eventually lead to something called compassion fatigue. This may occur in nurses who care for patients on each shift, deal with the secondary trauma of what patients are going through, or worse yet, experience the death of a patient, work long hours and even take extra shifts to help a co-worker. This means that self-care is probably non-existent, which is one of the greatest risks for compassion fatigue.

People suffering from compassion fatigue often have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. They may not be eating properly. They may be short-tempered and even start distancing themselves from those they care for and work with. Eventually they may experience physical pain and illness and start calling in sick more often.

Mental clarity can be compromised for many of the above reasons, leading to poor decision-making and potential mistakes. Without the attention it deserves, compassion fatigue can be dangerous and may lead to giving up careers that previously brought joy.

There IS hope. And the first step is awareness. Begin to notice what situations or people at work or at home are triggering stress and discomfort. Notice how it makes you feel: is it an emotional reaction, a physical reaction, or both? Be the objective observer as you learn more about it so that you can address it with tools like EFT Tapping or breathing practices.

Make sure you are getting enough water to drink. Sometimes we don’t stop long enough to remain hydrated or there may be fear of not having time to use the rest room. And make sure you have healthy snacks to keep your energy level constant. Rather than quick sugar snacks that will soon lead to an energy crash, enjoy nuts, fruit, oatmeal, or some long-lasting, highly-nutritious food.

Think hard about it before saying yes to the next request to cover a co-worker’s shift. I understand that it’s almost an automatic response to say “sure!” But you can’t keep drawing water from an empty well. Define some healthy boundaries and practice a few easy ways to say “no.”

Then use that extra time to rest, indulge in ‘me-time’ and maybe pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read. Go for a walk, watch a movie, take a long, hot bath, listen to a guided meditation, or just stare out the window watching nature. Do you feel guilty even thinking about taking time for self-care? That can easily be overcome with EFT Tapping!

Journaling your thoughts and feelings can go a long way toward awareness of what is truly making you feel frustrated or resentful. Once you see the pattern in the chaos of overwhelm, you can address it with mindful breathing, meditation, yoga, or EFT Tapping.

Know that you are not alone. I’m here, as are so many other compassionate, kind-hearted souls. Many of us reach a breaking point and need to push the reset button. It’s okay to take care of yourself. Really. In fact, because you take such good care of others, it’s absolutely essential that you take care of yourself first. We need you to be your best self.

If you’re feeling stuck and don’t know where to start, there’s help. Many employers have assistance programs to point you in the right direction. If that doesn’t feel safe, there are many helpful resources online. If you have questions about using breathing techniques or EFT Tapping to release negative emotions and regain balance and clarity, or you just want to talk, I’m here!

Thank you for everything you do. Please take care of you, too.

Please remember: It's important to contact a professional if things feel too big for you, whether it be a physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, or certified EFT practitioner. Never discontinue your current medications without first consulting your doctor.