Article

Identifying and Managing Compassion Fatigue

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05 July 2023
All of us suffer stress and fatigue as part of our daily lives, but not everyone experiences Compassion Fatigue.
What is Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion Fatigue is an overwhelming secondary stress response to ongoing exposure to traumatised individuals and traumatic situations, when the body’s resilience is depleted. It is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. Our body reacts to a situation not directly related to the trauma, because of our exhaustion caused by the ongoing impact of our exposure to traumatic experiences especially as part of our work.

It is most common in the helping or supportive professions including chaplains, paramedics and other first responders, as well as nursing and medical staff.

What Are the Signs of Compassion Fatigue?

If you are regularly providing help and guidance to others going through stressful and traumatic situations, you may show these signs of Compassion Fatigue:

lack of interest in or satisfaction with previously enjoyable activities

becoming pessimistic or cynical

becoming overly critical, sad, anxious or easily angered

a loss of productivity; difficulty concentrating on tasks or making decisions 

a reduced ability to feel empathy or sympathy

the use of negative coping behaviours such as substance abuse

difficulty sleeping

physical symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea and stomach upsets

neglecting relationships and feeling emotionally detached from others.

How Can I Deal with Compassion Fatigue?

1.       Become more aware of how you are responding to situations; practice self-evaluation and reflection.

2.      Acknowledge that you are reacting to life situations and other people in ways that are not usual for you.

3.       Seek the help of friends as well as managers and professionals who can guide you in self-care strategies and put processes in place to assist you, including regular debriefing sessions.

4.      Focus on what you can control, not on what you cannot control.

5.      If you are a Christian, meditate on Bible passages that you find helpful or resonate with you (the writers of the Psalms experienced the full range of situations and emotions).

6.      When you are experiencing your own traumatic or challenging situations, treat yourself with compassion, kindness and care.

7.       Put strategies in place to care for yourself: eating well, getting adequate rest, exercising and balancing work with restorative activities by yourself and with others.

Summary

The journey away from compassion fatigue is not a journey to do alone.

Who can be your companions on this journey? Seek them out. You will be glad you did.

To be better equipped, why not sign up for Korus Connect's Wholistic Care training? Email training@korusconnect.org.au to find out more.

To read more see:

https://www.cma.ca/physician-wellness-hub/content/compassion-fatigue-signs-symptoms-and-how-cope

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/signs-compassion-fatigue

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924075/