Compassion Fatigue: What It Is, And How to Fight It
We all have difficult days–it’s a part of life. But what if the tough stuff starts to wear you down too thin? Perhaps you’ve had a friend going through a crisis who seems to only want to rely on you for comfort, causing you stress as you set your own obligations aside to help them. Or perhaps you’ve avoided news sites and social media because you just can’t stand the idea of ANOTHER day of upsetting headlines. Maybe you’ve even assumed the role of a caretaker, where your daily routine revolves around the responsibility of managing the safety and well being of another life. The emotional exhaustion that can come from regular exposure to such high-stress events has a medical terminology: compassion fatigue.
First diagnosed in the 1950’s, compassion fatigue (also known as secondary traumatic stress or STS) is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. Symptoms can include anxiety, depression, and a pervasive negative attitude, which can lead to the inability to focus and decreased productivity. Physical ailments, such as difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and body aches can also occur.
While those in jobs that require an emotional investment, such as doctors, police officers, therapists, and teachers, are especially high-risk, it can happen to anyone who regularly invests their energy in helping others. It is no surprise that those who work in and with the fertility industry are regularly exposed to triggering stressors as well. Surrogates, donors, advisors, and potential parents all experience intense highs and lows when tackling the monumental task of starting a family—it’s no wonder that compassion fatigue is also called “the cost of caring.”
So, how can we prepare ourselves to take on the inevitable challenges that face us? Here are a few tips that can revitalize your mood and give you a fresh new perspective:
- Ask For Help
Phoning a friend or family member to talk you through a hard day can help ease the burden when it feels like the world is on your shoulders. Setting time to speak with a therapist can also release some tension, and they can provide you with tools to manage day-to-day stressors.
- Practice Self-Care
You’re the only you you’ve got, so be sure to look out for number one! Meditation, exercise, and focusing on your hobbies can help you center yourself and bring you back to solid ground. Even a simple breathing exercise during lunch can give you the clarity you need to power through.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Break
It’s okay to admit when you’re overloaded and need some space. Sometimes, all it takes is a mental health day every so often to get you back on track. Treat yourself gently when you feel overwhelmed, and invest in some R&R, such as a massage, bath, or mini-vacation.