Compassion Fatigue results when chronic stress is present from providing care and assistance to people or animals that are suffering or traumatized. Generally, caregivers identify with those that are helpless and in distress. Caregivers tend to focus on the needs of others as opposed to their own needs. Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue include constant feelings of sadness, isolation from others, outbursts or verbal complaints, physical ailments and lack of self-care rituals. One can have difficulty concentrating and even become accident prone. All too often, the caregivers own unresolved past loss, pain or trauma can attribute to Compassion Fatigue.
Caregivers are able to overcome Compassion Fatigue by gaining insight, creating boundaries and acquiring communication skills. In addition, one can manage Compassion Fatigue by creating support systems, learning to say “no”, sharing thoughts and feelings and paying attention to self-care. As a society, we tend to replicate what is not repaired thus the need for self- awareness and recognition of poor or negative behavioral patterns. Awareness is paramount and will bring change into one’s life. James Thurber, American author, said “Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness”.
Take time to care for yourself. By doing so, one can effectively manage stress. Caregivers should engage in self-care on four levels: physical, emotional, spiritual and social. Ask yourself: Are you getting enough sleep? Are you exercising? Have you had a recent physical? Do you have a sense of contentment? Do you feel you have processed past losses and traumas? Do you feel you have a sense of meaning and purpose? Are you making leisure time a priority?
Healthy caregiving is right around the corner. Maintain compassion, remain optimistic, practice self-care and acknowledge successes. Through management of self-care we are able to greet happiness and enjoy the simple pleasures life has to offer.