Are You Suffering From Compassion Fatigue?

If you’re working in the health care, law enforcement or first responder sector, compassion fatigue might be something you have experienced but have never quite put a label on it. It’s a pervasive occupational hazard for those who deal with other people’s trauma in their everyday profession. If you feel tired all the time and feel like you have run out of care to give while working in these sectors, you may be suffering from compassion fatigue.

What Is Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion fatigue has a lot of names; you may have heard it as second-hand shock or secondary stress reaction. Yet, they all mean one thing — a type of stress that stems from helping people experiencing trauma or significant emotional duress.

You can say compassion fatigue is similar to burnout. The only difference is burnout results from having too much work or too many responsibilities. In contrast, compassion fatigue comes from helping others — you’re zealous about helping others, but you get exhausted from experiencing the trauma of others second-hand.

Look Out for the Signs

Compassion fatigue can impact you physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. That’s why public service workers must learn how to recognise the symptoms of compassion fatigue. This way, they can alert themselves before it spirals into something more severe. 

These are the common symptoms you should watch out for:

  • Physical, mental and emotional exhaustion
  • Chronic headaches
  • Gastrointestinal issues 
  • Insomnia
  • Recurring nightmares and flashbacks 
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Pessimistic thinking
  • Drastic shifts in mood
  • Compulsive behaviours, such as overeating, overspending or gambling
  • Increased alcohol intake or drug reliance
  • Difficulty concentrating, heightened anxiety and irrational fears
  • Difficulty separating roles and responsibilities
  • Inability to feel sympathy and empathy for close friends and family
  • Withdrawal from social connections

How Can I Protect Myself From Compassion Trauma

Educating yourself about compassion trauma and recognising its symptoms is vital in preventing yourself from developing the condition. If left untreated, compassion trauma can evolve into a more serious mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, substance-use disorders and more. If you work in public service, these strategies can help you protect yourself from acquiring compassion fatigue.

Follow Through Your Self-Care Practices

Many public service workers become too devoted to taking care of others that they often neglect their own needs. Remember, it’s vital to take care of yourself to be capable of caring for others. So, eat healthily, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and ensure a work–life balance. It’s essential to set your priorities and engage in activities that replenish you physically and mentally, because your mental health is just as crucial as your physical health. 

Establish Emotional Boundaries

We know that developing a high level of empathy is a part of attending to a person’s pain and trauma, which is often a requirement for working in public service. Although a good trait, this can pose a problem to your relationship with your loved ones. If you give too much of yourself, there will be nothing left for you and your family and friends. That’s why it’s crucial to establish boundaries regarding your own emotions and needs when caring for others.

Practise Positive Coping Strategies

If you’re not careful, the stress and emotional burdens from your profession can lead you to poor coping strategies. You may even start developing mental disorders and substance abuse. To combat these tendencies, look for coping strategies that lead to positive outcomes. You can try meditation, journaling, spending time with nature, talking to a friend, or simply watching news bloopers on YouTube! If you have already tried various coping strategies but feel like none are working, do not hesitate to reach out to support groups or seek professional help. 

A Healthy Way to Practise Compassion

Helping others while neglecting your needs is dangerous; it’s a step forward to compassion fatigue or worse mental disorders. Compassion should not only be practised towards other people but also to yourself. As soon as you recognise some of these symptoms, take charge of taking care of your mental health and keep a step ahead of compassion fatigue.

Previous Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.