Are you a caregiver who is feeling depleted and emptied out? Are you tired, irritated, and frustrated all the time? Do you feel the need to isolate without any apparent reason? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the needs of others? If so, you may be going through compassion fatigue.
Constant exposure to the suffering of others can take a toll on you. It can exhaust you and deplete your internal emotional reserves. Compassion fatigue is common in people who work within the helping professions, (i.e. physicians, nurses, therapists, first responders, etc.).However, it is important to realize that anyone who is a caretaker of others can experience compassion fatigue.
Listed below are some tried and tested ways to help you improve your mental health and manage the stress that comes with compassion fatigue.
Create a self-care time
Self-care is not selfishness. Everyone needs time to replenish themselves and recharge their batteries. Don’t fall into the trap of taking care of everyone except yourself. Have some quality time alone to understand, motivate and love yourself. Meditate, jog, or take a walk while reflecting on yourself and your own needs. Enjoy the sunset or sunrise and take some time to “stop and smell the roses.” It is for the healing of your soul, and it will do you well when you are rejuvenated. Remember, that if you don’t take care of yourself, then who will?
Cultivate healthy friendships outside of work
One way to prevent things from boiling over is to leave work matters in the office. Have a life beyond your profession. Do not let your life only revolve around your patients, students, family members, or the other people that you help. Find friends who are encouraging and draw out the best in you. Develop your own social support network of friends and then stay connected with them.
Remove toxic people from your life
Do the people in your life lift you up or bring you down? If you are surrounded by people who constantly make you feel bad or who undermine you, then maybe it is time to make some changes. It is hard to thrive in a toxic environment. Remember, just because you know how to tolerate the toxicity, doesn’t mean that you should. It is easier to be self-caring if you are in a healthier environment.
Let others help you
Caregivers know how to give but aren’t always good at letting others give to them. If someone offers you help, accept it. Don’t take the “go it alone” approach. Instead, let others care for you and lift some of the burdens off of you.
Fun and laughter can be an antidote for stress and compassion fatigue. Engage in activities that are fun and spend time with people who are light-hearted and bring laughter into your life. Look for the humor in things rather than only focusing on the negative.
Develop hobbies and outside interests
Part of taking care of yourself is developing your own interests and hobbies. Spend time doing things that you enjoy and that enrich your life. The more fulfilled you feel, the more capacity you will have to care for yourself and others.
Take a break
Everyone needs a break from the stressors of life. Take a vacation or find activities to engage in that are unrelated to your caregiving activities. It is not enough to take a physical break; you also need to take a mental break. Most people find it easier to take a mental break when they get their mind and body completely engaged in an activity that they enjoy or that is meaningful to them.
Get the pacing right
Caring for others is often a marathon, rather than a sprint. It is important to pace yourself so that you can sustain your compassion for others.
Learn to say “no”
You don’t have to give until you have nothing left. Save some of your energy for yourself. Learn to say no before issues go beyond your capacity and capability. Think of a car that is running low on gas. Would you drive it until it is completely empty, or would you make sure that it has gasoline (or electricity) so that you don’t get stranded? It doesn’t do anyone any good if you allow yourself to get so “empty” that you become broken down on the side of the road. You do not have to bend over backward at the expense of your own mental well-being.
Embrace positive coping behaviors
Don’t rely on alcohol, drugs, food, or unhealthy habits to cope with the stress that comes with compassion fatigue. Develop healthy coping strategies such as exercise, meditation, journaling, and positive self-talk to manage your stress. Remember that self-care is not a one-time event, it takes an ongoing effort and a continued commitment to your own well-being to be effective.
Seek therapeutic intervention
You do not have to walk through this journey alone. Therapy can help you cope with your stressors and bounce back from compassion fatigue. Therapists have the resources and skills to help you unlearn habits, identify triggers, set up resolves, and most importantly find yourself. Compassion fatigue is something that can be overcome with the right intervention.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.