Do You Have Compassion Fatigue?
You feel indifference bubbling in the pit of your stomach. In your work to help others, you take in the hurt of those around you, and feel your compassion slipping away. You register the nightmare of someone else’s reality, but your eyes glaze over. You simply go through the motions to serve, but your heart’s not in it, not like it used to be.
You are experiencing compassion fatigue, the ultimate burn out. Not only are you physically and emotionally exhausted, your view of the world has changed.
According to research, this happens when you’ve had long-term firsthand or secondhand exposure to people in distress. Many psychologists, emergency care workers, and physicians experience this at some point, but in reality it can happen to anyone.
So how can you get over it? Here are five recommendations when you notice your heart transitioning to sandpaper.
No one wants to admit to growing cynical of the less fortunate, or that annoyance has replaced your compassion. You think that admittance might mean you’re heartless, but compassion fatigue actually happens after you’ve begun to care too much. Once you come to terms with the fact that your worldview has become skewed, you’ll be better able to pinpoint how to address the fatigue. Pay attention to the moments or the people provoking your emotional shutdown. Accept the fact you are struggling so that you can recognize your triggers.
Think about who you were before your burn out. Then, meditate on your present situation, and honestly confront what might need changing. Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as diet, sleeping habits, lack of exercise, and constant stress may all be contributing to your exhaustion. Similarly, consider your emotional, social, and spiritual health; Are you in any toxic relationships? Do you have a strong support system? Have you spent much time in prayer lately? Find the root of your exhaustion, then replace it with life-giving disciplines and behaviours.
3. Counsel with Others
Whether it’s a mental health professional, a spiritual leader in your church, or your dear old mom, you need to find someone you trust to become your compassion confidant. A raw conversation about your life to someone else is always self-revealing. You are not meant to struggle through this life alone. You need someone else to talk to. You just do.
4. Practice Gratitude
When you lose your spirit of thankfulness, you essentially put on a pair of blinders to the rest of the world. Only a grateful heart can see the brokenness of others, and can experience a desire to get involved. Be thankful for the little things, like your morning cup of coffee, or a good book. Don’t focus on what or who is missing in your life, but try to be content with the situation that you’re in.
5. Implement Change
Once you’ve accepted, evaluated, and discussed your compassion fatigue, you can begin to actually change. Take the blinders off, create boundaries around yourself, and look at the hurt around you. Change what you can. Pray for what you can’t. There does come a point when moving on to something else is the only option for your mental and emotional health. Sometimes the best thing to do is to remove yourself from the situation, and allow others to take your place.
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This list has been compiled from various qualified resources: