Before you read on, take a deep breath and tell yourself: this is normal, this is okay, and there is something I can do about it. Ready?
Compassion fatigue can show up in many different ways – it’s emotional and physical exhaustion that can affect you over time. It often feels like you have nothing left to give to anyone, including yourself.
So what does it look like?
Compassion fatigue can show up as any of the following:
- Self-medicating and numbing feelings (e.g. alcohol, food, Netflix, social media)
- Feeling shameful about taking care of yourself (or not), your work, how you show up
- Having “us vs. them” mentality (e.g. those not wearing masks vs. those who do)
- Developing a scarcity mindset vs. abundance mindset (e.g. there isn’t enough to go around)
- Having unexpected and misdirected outbursts and emotions (e.g. spilling a drink, traffic, emails)
- Isolating from family, friends, yourself (by numbing feelings)
- Experiencing flashbacks or nightmares
Compassion fatigue can be harmful to yourself and others:
- Leads to higher rates of depression and anxiety, increased stress
- Impacts your ability to empathize and connect with loved ones which could lead to household stress, divorce, isolation, etc.
There’s hope! There are things you can do to help.
1. Get some sleep, and develop a sustainable self-care plan. Block time (and keep it blocked) so you can do the things that bring you joy. And, find someone to help hold you accountable. Remember, self-care isn’t all bubble-baths and candles, it’s about doing things that bring you joy and limiting the things that cause stress. Need some ideas? Check out this list.
2. Set boundaries: On conversation topics, time, phone usage, etc. Have a friend who always calls about COVID-19, but it’s a topic that triggers stress for you? Tell them.
3. Be deliberate with empathy: Save empathy for yourself and family. Monitor your media intake and be realistic about how many causes you can serve at one time.
4. Ask for help: What can you stop? What can wait? What is urgent? What are barriers to you being able to develop a self-care plan and set boundaries?
5. Reconnect with something greater: spirituality, religion – whatever that means to you.
7. Be mindful: Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.
8. Talk with a professional: Share your concerns with a mental health professional.
9. Chat with your doctor: Are you experiencing nightmares or flashbacks, or other symptoms impacting your quality of life? Consult your doctor.