What Is Compassion Fatigue and How Can You Cope With It

Compassion Fatigue is a known hazard for those working in care services, especially those who work alone in providing home care services, who could fall victim without realising. With the majority of in-home carers experiencing symptoms at some point throughout their career, the need for education around the subject is increasingly important. Here, we take a look at the signs and offer advice on coping mechanisms that could help sufferers of compassion fatigue.

What are the signs?

You may experience exhaustion, either emotional or physical, or you could become more easily anxious or irritable.  You may become hypersensitive or completely insensitive to emotional situations, so look for changes in your normal reactions.  You may experience more headaches, have trouble sleeping or weight loss/gain.  If you notice any changes to your physical or emotional wellbeing, it maybe that you are experiencing symptoms of stress or compassion fatigue.

What can I do to help?

The good news, there are many strategies you can use to remove or reduce the effects of your home care work on your life. Learning coping strategies will help in all areas of your life and give you the best possible prevention from the effects of compassion fatigue.

Firstly, take time for self-care. Ensure you eat a balanced nutritious diet, take regular exercise and take routine restful sleep. You become better placed to care for your emotional needs when you look after your physical needs.  It is important to recognise the link between physical and mental health.

Take time out from work when you can, and set a sensible balance between work and home life. Engaging in hobbies and socialisation outside of your homecare role will ensure that you are not continually working. As an in home carer, you need down time from your work.

Set yourself firm emotional boundaries. Yes, it is okay to show empathy, but avoid being drawn-in too far. Do not take on the pain of others. Maintain connections, but remember that you are a separate person and need to protect your own emotional needs.

Teach yourself better

Teach yourself resiliency techniques, as those with higher resilience are better able to cope with stresses.  Resiliency techniques include changing your mind set, and the way you see a problem. It could help to think of it as a learning opportunity. This can help you view situations more positively and reduce the stress you feel as a result.

Positive coping mechanisms – have a list in mind that you can turn to. Consider how you relax when dealing with difficult or stressful situations. Deep breathing, taking a walk, speaking with a trusted friend, or turning on a distracting movie can change your advancing thought patterns and stop the downward spiral.

Do not be embarrassed to take advantage of any help that is out there. Whether this is through routine check-ins with your employer, (if you work for an agency), taking mental health awareness days, spending time relaxation rooms, or considering massage and meditation, all these things can help.

Still struggling?

Lastly, seek personal therapy if you feel emotionally vulnerable, stressed or are becoming overwhelmed, and feel you need more support.  Arrange a visit to a therapist trained to help combat compassion fatigue. They will help you understand the pitfalls of your work, and implement strategies to help you restore and maintain a stronger work-life balance for you.