Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary trauma, burn-out, vicarious trauma, or empathetic strain is a occupational hazard for therapists, health-care professionals, and other care-givers. It’s a catch-22 that only deeply caring people are susceptible to compassion fatigue, and only deeply caring people become care-givers. Compassion fatigue can be defined as physical, emotional or spiritual exhaustion that takes over a caregiver and causes an inability to experience joy or feel empathy for others. Mindfulness meditation can help caregivers heal from, and even better, prevent compassion fatigue by resetting the cargiver’s nervous system and replenishing stores of compassion.
It’s a catch-22 that only deeply caring people are susceptible to compassion fatigue, and only deeply caring people become care-givers
Symptoms of compassion fatigue can mimic PTSD and include exhaustion, loss of interest and feelings of hopelessness and irritability. If you are a caregiver who is exposed to traumatic situations, you might even experience nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, restricted range of feelings and difficulty sleeping.
Preventing compassion fatigue takes a concerted effort to be compassionate toward yourself. Here’s how mindfulness can help:
1. Have a daily practice of self care that includes supportive colleagues, a healthy diet and exercise regime, and adequate breaks during the day where you focus on your breathing and quiet your mind.
2. Have longer term plan for restoration that might include professional development, retreat time, or other forms of personal enrichment.
3. Take an inventory of your energy level every day, by sitting quietly first thing in the morning, talking with a colleague or practicing a body can.
Compassion fatigue feeds on isolation. Don’t wait until you are completely exhausted to talk to a friend, colleague or other health professional.
Take a look at our two new worksheets on Coping versus Restoration to create your plan to prevent or recover from compassion fatigue.
We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness everyday!
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