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Is compassion fatigue real?

As humans, we are naturally wired to develop connections with people. We bond with family, friends, and coworkers. This is a part of our nature.

 
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These connections are usually the strongest with our family and the people whom we have spent a lot of time with. So, when someone we care about is diagnosed with an intellectual disability or mental disorder, we try our best to care for them and help them through tough situations.

This effort of trying to take care of them while fulfilling other responsibilities can take a toll on anyone’s mental wellbeing.

What is compassion fatigue?

As explained by Dr. Charles Figley, from the Tulane Traumatology Institute, compassion fatigue is something you experience when you’re helping someone else who is in distress. Being so preoccupied with caring for them sometimes creates a secondary traumatic stress for you.

In most situations, caregivers do not have an outlet to express these feelings, so they start feeling isolated and lonely. It seems to them that they are caught in a vicious cycle of feeling drained and having a seemingly never-ending task-list.

How do I know that I am experiencing compassion fatigue?

The first step for dealing with compassion fatigue is acknowledging that you may be going through it. There are some simple signs that indicate that you are experiencing it. Some of these include reduced ability to function, being perpetually stressed, not being able to get much done, and being irritable.

In addition to mental indicators, you may also experience physical pain and lack of sleep. Having more aches and pains than usual can indicate that the stress is not only affecting your mind but also your body.

Some simple tests are also available online to help you recognize the signs and symptoms to compassion fatigue. These tests can be the first step in understanding what you’re feeling and help you determine if you need to seek further assistance. 

What should I do?

Just realizing the fact that you’re experiencing compassion fatigue can worry anyone. This may seem like an additional thing to deal with on top of all the responsibilities you already have.

However, it is important to recognize that self-care isn’t as hard as it may seem. Some of these tips can help in reducing stress and battling loneliness:

  • Self-care

When we are caring for a loved one, it is easy to forget about our own needs. It is equally important to show yourself the same compassion and be kind to yourself. Just taking a few minutes in the day to do things you like or acknowledging your efforts can help.

  • Staying active

Physical activity can boost your energy and give you clarity. Something as small as a jog to the coffee shop or a quick morning workout; can help you get energized and alleviate body pain.

  • Create a support system

Having emotional support always helps. Being able to have a conversation and share your feelings with friends or a family member can make a huge difference. Additionally, you can also join a caregiver support group. There is usually information available on these groups at community centers, hospitals and even online. 

  • Find time to do what you love

Even when you’ve had a busy day, try to make time for something you love doing. From reading a book to cooking your favorite meal, do something that makes you happy.

Remember, at the end of the day, it is okay to take a step back, breathe, and remind yourself that you’re doing what you can.

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Author: Erum Ansari is a public relations professional who specializes in technology comms. She is an avid reader, a travel enthusiast, and a self-proclaimed story-teller. Before joining the content team at Your Doctors Online, Erum was the PR manager at Hill & Knowlton Strategies and was handling communications and content strategy for a diverse portfolio of brands. She is also a new mom who is finding her way around motherhood.