Why Self-Care Is Important To Prevent Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue is the state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion of someone who cares for other people on a regular basis. It develops overtime as a helper continues to care for other people and help other people as their full time job. It changes who you are…
Compassion fatigue affects first responders, teachers, counselors, social workers, medical professionals and other helping professionals in their job satisfaction, emotional and physical health and it highly affects their relationships at home or outside their jobs.
SIDE NOTE: Burnout and Compassion Fatigue have similar symptoms but Compassion Fatigue happens when you see trauma events, hear traumatic events and absorb the trauma and the emotional stress of other people (patients, students, victims, etc), while Burnout is feeling worn-out in your job or any profession.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF COMPASSION FATIGUE:
- anger and irritability
- avoidance of work
- reduce empathy
- somatic pains (headache, stomach ache, neck pain, other physical pains with no injuries or diagnosis)
- stronger triggers or psychological arousal
- changes in belief (insecure and un safe view of the world)
- decrease intimacy
- relationship issues
- poor sleep
- cognitive distortions
- difficult to focus or stay present
So why is self-care important for helpers like you?
So that you can continue to do the work that makes a difference in other people’s lives!
So you can appreciate your job again!
So you can continue to care about your community!
So you can have meaningful relationships with your loved ones!
When your needs are met, then you are happier.
Self-care is nourishing your mind, body and spirit.
Doing something that brings your joy on a regular basis. Scheduling activities that bring YOU joy at least once a week (yoga, golfing, fishing, knitting, painting, hiking, reading, mani and pedi, lunch with a friend, coffee date, writing, coloring, etc.). Activities for YOURSELF, not for your kids, not for your spouse, not for your parents, not for your boss, not for your clients, BUT FOR YOU.
Self-care is about getting the rest that you need; eating healthy food on a regular basis; and exercising to help boost your endorphins and oxytocin’s (feel good hormones) and decrease serotonin (stress hormones).
Self-care is asking for what you need. Telling your truth and letting go of the outcome. Expressing your thoughts and feelings is a good release that can help you prevent compassion fatigue because it reminds you that there are good people in this world and there’s always hope.
Self-care is expressing your feelings to someone who cares, or someone who can validate your feelings and not judge, shame or guilt you. Expressing your feelings can be a release of the distorted thoughts you have that make you feel unsafe and insecure in this world. This can be done in a support group with your cohort, other professionals like you, or in a therapy room.
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for Helpers:
- Prioritize yourself — take care of yourself first so you can continue to take care of others = self-care
- Ask for help — no one is a mindreader so ask someone for help so they can help you
- Communicate your feelings — find someone who can process your thoughts and feelings to help bring back hope in you
- Pursuing personal interest — do what brings you joy, things that you are passionate about (not about work)
Let’s talk about hobbies for a minute here… Hobbies are activities outside of work that gives you pleasure and it has significant benefits. Now is the time to get one! It can make you smarter and help manage your stress. It improves your mood and increases your autonomy. It lets you experience FLOW!
Flow is the feeling of being absorbed in an activity that you lose track of time. It can be purely physical like skiing, running, hiking, yoga, swimming, boxing OR creative like carpentry, building with Legos, painting, making music, photography OR activities like fishing, volunteering or reading….
When we practice self-care, it allows us to see ourselves differently.
You are not just a medic, a nurse, a teacher, a cop, a social worker, a counselor, a clerk, an employee….
You are more than that!
Your profession doesn’t define you!
You have other purpose in life.
And you only need 1–2 hours a week to do something that brings you joy!
2 hours out of 168!!!
Do it for yourself.
Do it for your family.
Do it for your patients, students, clients…
But do it for YOU first.