Overcoming Compassion Fatigue

Do you ever tire of helping others, or feel hopeless — like you can’t change things no matter how hard you try? It might not be a case of just having a few bad days. Professionals in certain fields can suffer from a condition known as compassion fatigue, which the American Institute of Stress defines as “the emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from the consequences of traumatic events.”

Many health care workers grow weary of caring for sick patients, but people in the medical field aren’t the only ones who face this challenge. Police officers, social workers, aid workers, and counselors are some other professionals who may be exposed to tragic events or threats to someone’s well-being. It’s important that people in these fields understand compassion fatigue’s symptoms and be aware of ways to overcome them.

Symptoms may differ in individuals, but generally those affected report anger, depression, hopelessness, and not feeling as joyful as they used to. Many people find it helpful to talk through their feelings and remind themselves of why they chose their profession. You may not always see the fruits of your labor, but you never know how your positive actions may impact someone else’s life.

It is important to take care of yourself even if you feel overwhelmed. Always eat well, get enough sleep, and use your support system. This way, you will be more effective in caring for others. Think about what helps you relax and reduce stress. Exercising, being active in the community, taking a walk, or keeping a gratitude journal can be effective. Make sure you have a support system (in terms of an outlet to relax or people to talk to) to help you avoid and overcome compassion fatigue.

It’s wise to ask for help if you find yourself suffering from compassion fatigue. There are many resources out there, such as the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project. In general, they recommend making positive steps to change your personal environment.

Image source: Flickr