Do you suffer from compassion fatigue?
Also known as secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue was first diagnosed in nurses and other healthcare workers back in the 1950s. Since then, it has been used to describe feelings of hopelessness, constant stress and anxiety, complacency, and a pervasive negative attitude. These debilitating symptoms are exhibited by a wide range of people, including teachers, attorneys, first responders and those who care for aging loved ones. I know I experienced many of these symptoms when I first began to care for my mom in Brooklyn by making frequent trips from Atlanta and remotely coordinating her services and doctor care.
I recently spoke to about 150 healthcare leaders at a regional medical center about how they can reduce stress and enjoy better balance. They serve others in an environment of constant change and uncertainty. Can you relate?
By being more mindful of this danger and developing your resilience, you can avoid or relieve compassion fatigue. Here are three ways to do that.
Practice Self Care.
Start by taking breaks during the workday to stretch, do some deep breathing or take a walk. Talk with a friend or healthcare professional. Eat and drink wisely. Ever tried meditation but decided you weren’t good at it? Here’s one of the brief, clever videos I share in my Better Balance presentations that may encourage you to try again: Meditation 101.
Limit Your News Intake.
Some claim compassion fatigue is exasperated by the extensive, vivid TV news coverage of tragedies and suffering with little context. This can make us desensitized or resistant to helping others. Consider fasting from news for a while and searching online when you need more information on a current event, weather conditions or sports scores. Supplement that fast with reading something inspiring or watching positive, uplifting stories from YouTube or TV shows like CBS Sunday Morning. You’ll sleep better.
Write it Down.
Journaling can be a powerful way to sort through experiences and emotions so you can put things in perspective. Consider writing in a notebook a few nights a week. You might list what you’re grateful for that day or script how you want your next day to unfold. Writing about what you are committed to do to relieve compassion fatigue, like meditating or not watching the news every night, will help you develop those healthy, lifelong habits.
How do you relieve compassion fatigue?