Sometimes caring can hurt. People who work as caregivers, including doctors, nurses and hospice staff, are in danger of developing compassion fatigue, a very unique form of chronic stress commonly seen in those who have devoted their lives to helping others. Compassion fatigue does not only affect those in the healthcare field; anyone who works on a consistent basis with sick, suffering or traumatized people or animals is at risk of developing compassion fatigue, including those who care for a sick or disabled family member at home. Compassion fatigue can affect an individual’s ability to function at the most basic level, with symptoms of an increased amount of stress, working harder yet getting less accomplished, boredom, irritability and an increase in physical illness, aches and pains. If you work closely with people or animals who require constant care and you feel as though you may have some or all of these symptoms, there are many available resources to help you cope with your compassion fatigue and get you back to feeling like yourself again.
How Can I Treat Compassion Fatigue?
One of the most important steps of treating compassion fatigue and getting back on track with your life is to assess your current level of self-care. Many people who dedicate their lives to helping others often forget to take care of themselves. Pay attention to your body so you can give it what it needs. Not sleeping enough? Try to adjust your schedule to get a full night’s rest every night. Grabbing unhealthy meals on the go? Pack healthy meals and snacks and use a timer to remind yourself to eat and drink water throughout the day. Increasing your physical activity with brisk outdoor walks during breaks or before work can also help improve your compassion fatigue symptoms.
In addition to upping their self-care routine, many sufferers of compassion fatigue find it helpful to practice yoga, meditation or other deep-breathing exercises to reduce stress, and also recommend reconnecting with friends and family members, as well as re-introducing yourself to hobbies or activities you used to love, or discovering new ones! In other words, making time for yourself is crucial to your healing process.
Those who suffer from compassion fatigue may find it particularly helpful to speak with a mental health professional to learn new tools and strategies for coping with the extreme stress, anxiety and sadness that can come with their role as a caregiver. Many compassion fatigue sufferers have found it beneficial to have someone to talk to who can listen and give suggestions for dealing with some of the trauma they find themselves absorbing from the people and animals they care for each day.
Ben Wolf is a licensed psychotherapist in St. Paul with experience in treatment for grief counseling and compassion fatigue. He understands that sometimes, caring for others can take its toll on your mental health and general well-being. Ben Wolf wants to help you get back to your life so you can do your best every day without giving yourself away. Call Ben Wolf’s St. Paul practice today at 612-643-1920 to schedule an initial consultation. A happier, more balanced you is waiting- call now!