Avoiding Compassion Fatigue
So earlier I was recording the Rainbow Roc radio show with the gang, and we started to discuss compassion fatigue and I thought I’d share some more about it with you all!
So what is compassion fatigue? It describes the physical, emotional, and/or psychological impact of helping others. Very often helping others who are going through a traumatic event, or whom are marginalized, or going through other stressful events. It’s slightly different from being burned out by the work you love. This is more about being tired from the sheer exhaustion of caring for others.
News fatigue contributes to this. Nowadays we are bombarded with news 24/7 and is everywhere. It’s on our phones, our laptops, our televisions, our social media. Much of it gloom and doom. Whether we are helping folks in our own back yards, or trying to figure out ways to help people from far away – caring deeply and helping can be exhausting. Right now the world is watching what’s going on with the Ukraine. And waiting. And worrying. And watching. We may be worried about the impacts on our own lives, we may be heartbroken for the innocents, we may be looking for ways to help, or feeling helpless.
If we aren’t careful – you are suddenly exhausted. You may find yourself having trouble sleeping, or eating. You may find yourself depressed or just dead tired. For me I can worry myself into a panic attack, or I may feel helpless and want to hide away all day. I may get weepy easily over small things – those are some of my own red flags, so to speak.
So below are a few things I’ve found that help avoid this Compassion Fatigue. I’d love to hear from you all about what some of your own signs are that you are reaching that level of Compassion Fatigue and/or what things you have found that help!
Until next time friends!
Avoiding Compassion Fatigue – Some Tips!
Pay Attention To Your Red Flags
Watch for signs of compassion fatigue – or news fatigue. I mentioned some of mine up above – easily weepy, panicky or depressed. Those might also be signs for you. Or your signs may be totally different. Try to notice when you aren’t acting or feeling quite yourself. Maybe you are more depressed, or more anxious, or more easily irritated. Maybe you are suddenly finding it difficult to feel as compassionate or empathetic as you usually do. Maybe you are finding it tough focus. You know yourself best. Watch out for those red flags and have a plan.
Take A Break
So my first suggestion when you are feeling compassion or news fatigue is to take a break. For five minutes, five hours, five days if you need to. Unplug if the social media news bombardment is making you frazzled. Change your location or activity. Even if you are at work and not able to get a really good break – get up and take a walk, or do some deep breathing, or have yourself a dance party. Go big and take a vacation. Or a staycation. Or a 20 minute bubble bath. Whatever works for you – just take a break.
Look For The Heroes (and other good stuff)
When I was a little girl, I was watching television, and learned a lesson that I’ve carried with me. I want to say it was Mr. Rogers, but I’m not 100% sure. Whoever it was, they discussed how no matter how much or what kind of bad things are going on, to look for the heroes, the helpers, the people doing good. That’s a hugely paraphrased snapshot of a memory 40 years ago, but it really stuck with me. Whenever there is something horrible, there are always heroes. Always people doing good. For example, we talked about the Ukraine and all the awfulness happening over there. But we also talked about the good we are seeing. The women from Poland leaving their strollers in underground tunnels for families who are escaping to use. Refugees leaving with their animals strapped to their backs or in backpacks and carriers. There is always love if you look. There are always good things and good people. Find them. Be them.
Focus On What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t
There is so much need everywhere it can be overwhelming. It’s easy to feel helpless. There’s only so much any one person can do, right? And sometimes it might be hard to see what we can do at all in some situations. Feeling helpless is a cruddy feeling. One way to combat this is to look for ways you can (or already are) helping. No, you may not be able to solve the overseas conflict. But you might be able to donate $10 towards someplace serving refugees. You might not be able to make sure every child has school supplies – but you CAN donate what you can, when you can. You have resources – some more limited than others but we all have resources. Whether it’s money, time, skill, talent – we can find ways to do “something.” So when I look at a specific situation and feel helpless or overwhelmed by feeling there’s nothing I can do – I challenge myself to find one thing that I *can* do. Make a donation. Volunteer somewhere. Help raise awareness. Lift voices of the oppressed. Even something as simple as smiling at someone who is having a bad day. That’s helpful. For me I try to think of one thing at a time that I can do to make the world a better place. And for me, that’s enough.