Compassion Fatigue: The Less Talked About Burnout And How It Can Weigh You Down

Compassion Fatigue: The Less Talked About Burnout And How It Can Weigh You Down March 31, 2023Leave a comment

Are there times when you find yourself drained out of empathy? 

Sometimes, you’re just going through the motions, oblivious to the challenges others endure, while other times, you’re able to help people through emotionally challenging times.

What is Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion fatigue covers the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of helping others, which are sometimes accompanied by stress. Compassion fatigue is sometimes confused with burnout, which is a cumulative state of exhaustion or discontent.

Although burnout is also a type of fatigue, compassion fatigue refers to a more unique sensation that may be caused by a stressful workplace or environment, a lack of resources, or working excessive hours.

Who are at risk?

Compassion fatigue affects many caregivers and professionals. It is especially prevalent among people who work in the medical or caring fields. If you are a medical professional, a therapist, a first responder, a nurse, or any other type of service provider, you may be more susceptible to compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue was once mostly associated with health care personnel, first responders, law enforcement officials, and in-home carers. However, as the epidemic continues and the 24-hour news cycle sends incessant stories of suffering from throughout the world, we are all at risk of developing compassion fatigue.

Signs you need to watch out

Compassion fatigue can manifest as a variety of symptoms and behaviors, including:

1. Reduced ability or desire in caring for others

2. Exhaustion, either mental or physical

3. Irritability and anger

4. Depression and/or anxiety

5. intrusive thoughts

6. Sleep issues

7. Being easily frightened

8. Hopelessness  with work

9. Flashbacks

10. Hypervigilance

11. Avoidance of particular activities, circumstances, or persons you assist 

12. Productivity declines

13. Numbness of emotion

14. A reduced capacity to feel compassion and empathy

15. Dysfunctional coping strategies

16. Taking extra time off from work

17. Reduced capacity to make decisions

18. Disconnected feelings

Prevention and treatment

Your unique situation will determine the best course of treatment for compassion fatigue. Typical therapies include:

Self Care

You can’t pour from an empty cup. You jeopardize your capacity to moderate your responses, be there for others, and listen and sympathize with others if you fail to neglect self-care.

Even on the busiest of days, there are small ways to care for yourself. Self-care can include:

1. Taking the time to eat well

2. Staying hydrated

3. Getting enough sleep

4. Using meditation to stay active

5. Getting a massage

6. Spending time with the people you care about

7. Going on vacation

8. Doing activities you enjoy

Practice self-compassion

Treating oneself kindly when you have a setback or difficulty is self-compassion. Though it’s a simple concept, most people find it surprisingly challenging.

Many people make the mistake of avoiding self-compassion out of concern that they would grow complacent and jeopardize their achievements. However, studies show that this is untrue. Self-compassion improves your leadership skills. Additionally, it better prepares you to manage the elevated emotional demands of leading in circumstances like the ones we’re in right now.

Self-compassion practitioners have better levels of emotional intelligence and resilience, and they maintain their composure under duress. In addition to lowering stress, anxiety, and depression, self-compassion is frequently linked to emotional well-being.

Safeguard your emotional state

It can be tough to hear about and observe the suffering of others, especially if you have a strong capacity for empathy. While empathy makes it easier to relate to others, it also makes you more susceptible to picking up on the feelings and moods of people around you.

Focus on actively searching out additional information to better comprehend the situation when others express their suffering and concerns to you. Because it promotes cognitive empathy rather than emotional empathy, this reaction can protect you from some of the negative impacts.

Tackling compassion fatigue at the organizational level

Organizations associated with such professionals can use bulletin boards, staff meeting discussions, and/or coaching/supervision sessions to promote and stimulate debate on the issue. Other avenues for increasing awareness and assisting people feeling compassion fatigue include formal debriefing sessions, internal support groups within a company, Employee Assistance Programs, and corporate wellness programs/committees.

It’s crucial to seek professional assistance if you continue to feel overburdened by your duties as a caregiver, health care worker, or in other capacities. By speaking with a therapist, psychiatrist, general practitioner, or trauma specialist, you may be able to reduce your emotions of stress, worry, and weariness.

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