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Do You Have Compassion Fatigue?

“Listen to your body and emotions when they tell you something no longer works for you. Let the old fall away. Listen to your inner guidance as your heart leads you to someplace new.”

~Melodie Beatty

Unlike burnout (see Professional Burnout: a Preventive Solution), which is caused by everyday work stresses, compassion fatigue is a result of taking on the emotional burdens of a patient or loved one. Symptoms include thoughts that won’t stop, sleep problems, irritability, emotional outbursts and a wish to be somewhere else other than caring for another individual.

There is similarity between PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and compassion fatigue in that there is high stress in each situation ~ however, with compassion fatigue, the stress is in response to the trauma or illness of another person.

Many of us become caregivers at some point in our lives. It is important to recognize compassion fatigue is likely to occur and be ready for it. Also, it is important to say out loud: “This is getting the best of me”. The situation, the truth, has been spoken to. It is also important to realize compassion fatigue is not a weakness ~ it is a part of being human and being in a difficult situation. It is also important to the patient that we nourish ourselves during a time of care giving.

5 Tips for Self Care

Being an educator of mindfulness, a nurse and a caregiver myself, I have created 5 basic ways to care for ourselves first and in doing this, having strength and energy for others. Practicing awareness, the heart of mindfulness, is more than important ~ it is essential to caring for ourselves and then for another.

1. Mindfulness meditation: research has shown that meditating soothes the system, decreasing depression and anxiety. Recent studies have shown that opening one’s heart to empathy during meditation actually makes empathetic behavior become a personal trait.

2. Create daily self care and commit to doing it. For example, start and end the day with quiet and stillness. And use breathing as a refuge: stop and take deep, centering breaths on a regular basis.

3. Write it down: whether it is “morning pages” as Julia Cameron suggests or keeping a simple personal journal, reflective writing is good for the soul and prevents compassion fatigue.

4. Be in nature and move your body: take time each day for some sort of exercise ~ a brisk walk, a workout (if possible) or simply sitting outside will help greatly. The healthier the physical body, the less likely to become a victim of compassion fatigue.

5. Ask for help: stay connected to friends and family and allow for help and support. As best, continue life outside of the situation ~ though it
may be compromised for awhile.

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