Caring too much can hurt. Caregivers focus most of their time on others without any consideration to their own well-being. According to Dr. Charles Figley, director of Tulane Traumatology Institute, “Compassion fatigue is a state experienced by those helping people or animals in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the helper.”
Studies confirm that caregivers, whether paid providers or family members, are at a high risk for developing compassion fatigue at some point in their career. Eric Gentry, a leading traumatologist, states that many caregiver enter into the field with some level of fatigue due to their caring nature. Each and every day caregivers struggle to function in a care giving environment where they are presented with heart wrenching, emotional challenges and that is just at work. Often times caregivers also continue this role in their personal lives: caring for children, caring for aging parents, family responsibilities, other work commitments, and the list goes on.
So now that we know we are all at risk, what can we do? The first step is an easy one: Awareness, acknowledging you are at risk leads to insight into your own personal well-being. Awareness also means knowing the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue not only in ourselves but also recognizing them in our co-workers.
There can be many signs of compassion fatigue, the list is extensive: excessive blaming, bottled up emotions, isolation from others, voices excessive complaints, substance abuse, poor self-care, chronic physical ailments, difficulty concentrating, denial, absenteeism. Keep in mind that we all get “stressed” from time to time and that is normal. Compassion fatigue goes beyond our day to day stress and slowly begins to affect our overall mood and health.
The road to helping ourselves starts now! Simple practices such as regular exercise, healthy eating habits, enjoyable social activities, journaling, and restful sleep are easy steps to take, starting today, that will drastically improve our well-being and lower our risks for compassion fatigue.
If you, someone you care about, a co-worker are showing symptoms of compassion fatigue take the time to acknowledge the signs, ask them how they are doing, and listening. I recently had the opportunity to attend a compassion fatigue educational course where I learned how to recognize the symptoms so that I can educate others on the topic. I also became a compassion fatigue therapist. If you are suffering, talk to someone. You are not alone, take the first step.
Source: Compassion Project