Grieving and Compassion Fatigue
When you are a person in a helping role, such as a nurse, doctor, or even a caregiver for someone with lupus, there is a very real chance that you may encounter something that is known as compassion fatigue. It is very much like it sounds — your will, desire, and the constant act of compassion can lead to a form of fatigue. Interesting, the people who find that they have the most empathy are typically the individuals who are most at risk.
What is compassion fatigue?
Compassion fatigue can be identified by the emotional (or even physical) exhaustion combined with the significant decrease in the ability or desire to actually empathize. Compassion fatigue is another form of traumatic stress that occurs as a result of consistently helping other people who are in need. Compassion fatigue is something that not only impacts that person who is providing the care but the people who are on the receiving end of the care as well.
If compassion fatigue continues to go without mitigation, it can begin to have mental and physical effects. Additionally, if there are mental and physical implications with compassion fatigue, there could be very serious potential legal implications for providing care to people while in this state.
Steps for preventing compassion fatigue
Compassion fatigue can often be construed as burnout, but it is important to note that these conditions are not the same thing. Compassion fatigue occurs more sporadically than burnout, but it is treatable. In fact, not only is compassion fatigue treatable but through strategic steps, it can actually be prevented. Here are some of the steps that can be taken:
- Educate yourself: When you know and understand that compassion fatigue is a real thing, you become more aware of the things that can lead to it and quickly work to minimize those risks. If you start to notice signs like exhaustion, headaches, sleeping troubles, impaired decision-making, etc., you may be in the beginning stages of compassion fatigue.
- Implement self-care techniques: Once you have identified some of the symptoms or triggers of compassion fatigue, employing some self-care technique can be incredibly beneficial. Self-care can take many different forms like eating a balanced diet, working out consistently, learning to appropriately balance work and play, and taking time to rest and relax.
- Have unrelated hobbies: You will require times where you need to recharge your proverbial batteries. One of the best ways to do this is to develop friendships and activities that are outside of your work as a caregiver. Picking up a hobby that is unrelated can provide a great opportunity to clear your mind.
- Set boundaries: Related to picking up outside hobbies or developing friendships that are outside of lupus is part of setting boundaries. Setting boundaries is another tactic that can be used to prevent compassion fatigue. Be sure to set aside certain times of the day, week, or month that are specifically and solely for you as the caregiver. Once you have set these moments aside for yourself, you must protect these moments!
Being a compassionate person is essential as a caregiver of someone with lupus. However, it is vitally important to take care of yourself if you intend to continue to take care of others.
Who do you turn to first for emotional support? (choose up to three)