Feeling tired physically and emotionally? Facing burnout but struggling with the knowledge you can’t? Can’t quite put a finger on why you feel the way you do? You might have compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue is described as having physical and emotional exhaustion mixed with extreme decreases in your ability to empathize with the one you are caring for. It’s a form of traumatic stress, resulting in the build up of stress through helping or wanting to help those in need.
Compassion fatigue is often referred to as burnout. But they aren’t the same things. Burnout happens over time. Compassion fatigue is less predictable and comes on suddenly without warning. How do you know if it’s happening to you?
First, get educated
Caregiving is as much an education for you as it is for the one you’re caring for. The most common signs of compassion fatigue include:
- Exhaustion – emotional and physical
- Lack of sympathy or empathy
- Dreading your caregiving role
- Feeling guilty about your lack of care
- Anger and irritability
- Hypersensitivity to emotional activities
- Trouble sleeping
- Poor work/life balance
- Diminished happiness
Next, set emotional boundaries
A daily challenge, especially for someone in a caregiving role, is to protect your emotional boundaries. The challenge is to provide the necessary care with empathy and sensitivity without getting overly emotionally charged. You are your own person with your own needs. They two do not intertwine.
If you’re involved in too much daily trauma, it’s easy to take on the pain that ripples through your life from those around you. It can manifest it in many ways, including overeating or skipping meals, insomnia, anxiety, or depression. It can also impact the other relationships in your life.
The key is to take time for yourself. De-stress. Practice self-care. If you don’t think you have time for it, that’s when you need it the most.
Schedule things like:
Meals with family and friends
Regular sleep schedule
Work and leisure activities
Timeout – time to do what you choose to do
Finally, seek help as needed
People that suffer the most feel they don’t have the resources they need to get help. These are the people most at risk. If you find yourself feeling vulnerable, stressed, or overwhelmed, and the feelings won’t go away, it’s time to seek out help. Find someone that offers you a chance to open up in a safe environment; someone who helps you deal with your feeling in a positive way.
This isn’t something you conquer once and move on. It can be something that grows and changes with every new challenge.
By recognizing it early, you can move forward quickly and get back to living in a well-balanced way.