Compassion Fatigue – Part 1

Watch the VLOG here!

Do you feel exhausted? Do you feel burnt out?

This (and next week’s post) goes out to the people who are so very near and dear to my heart: people who are in caregiving roles. In fact, anyone who is in the service delivery role, this is for you. If you do feel exhausted or burnt out, there’s a good reason for that. And you know what? It’s because you are awesome.

Has anyone told you that lately?

Maybe they have, but let me tell you why I say that. And it’s not just a general, patronizing statement of, “you’re awesome”. I really mean it because you care so much about your job, which is to care about other people. That’s why you’re tired. This is something we call compassion fatigue.

The challenging thing about compassion fatigue is…

. . . that we give so much to other people – family members, the people we serve, even our bosses and people who report to us. Even if nobody is reporting to you, I bet you’re helping students and other people who are making their way into this world.

You put so much out there; do you leave anything on reserve for yourself?

Do you practice your hobbies? Do you have shared interests with your spouse or other important people in your life? Do you take time to eat right and exercise? If you’re like a lot of caregivers I know, especially the ones who are burnt out, you’re putting those to the side because so many people depend on you.

What if I reminded you of one important thing that they tell you on every single flight (something that you’d know if you took time for a vacation, which is entirely possible you haven’t lately)? What if, heaven forbid, something happens and there’s a crash? When those oxygen masks come down from the ceiling do you put it on somebody else or do they tell you to put it on yourself first? That’s what we’re talking about here – how do you put your own oxygen mask on first?

Since you give so much to everybody else . . .

I want to give you a resource! I want to give you two exercises that you can use to embrace compassion fatigue. They come out of a workbook that I put together with another incredible, caring professional. Brenda Zalter-Minden spent her career in service in two ways; one as a social worker working with children and adolescents and next in organizational development helping teams in the caring professions being able to rejuvenate and find their passion again. So we have some tools and exercises that we want to offer. I want to give you those exercises so that you can use them for yourself and your teams. But I also want to give you three other strategies that work with the thousands of folks that I’ve worked with in my career.

1) Talk about it

Talk about it with the people that you work with. You don’t have to keep it inside wondering, is somebody going to figure out that I’m burning out? Talk about the symptoms and the strategies. Next week, I’m going to give you a download so that you can get more familiar with symptoms and strategies but for now, just start the conversation. When you’re not feeling yourself, it’s okay to mention that because I bet you any money other people, not only are going through it, but they can certainly relate.

2) Practice strategies of self-care

It sounds really easy and really obvious but when somebody reminds you to do it, do you? What if in fact, it were going to be the thing that would allow you to keep coming back to work and doing the amazing work that you’re doing?

3) Make sure to reach out for help

If you’re at the point of extreme burnout there’s no point in continuing alone, to try to suffer on your own or with whatever resources you’ve tapped into.  Sometimes it gets to a point where we need even more help. Whether it’s EAP, or someone you report to, whether it’s working with a peer who really knows what it’s like to have survived and come through compassion fatigue. Tap into that resource, because you don’t have to deal with it and suffer through it because why do you have it in the first place? Because you’re so incredibly great at what you do. You’re so caring and compassionate. You need to turn that inwards now.

I hope that you find this helpful. Stay tuned and also subscribe to my YouTube channel. Not only will you find another VLOG next week, but a whole bunch of other resources that are designed to help you and your workplace stay healthy and have a strong culture where you can do that amazing work that people depend on you for.

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

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