Are You At Risk of Developing Compassion Fatigue?
Every day, workers struggle to function in caregiving environments that continuously produce heart-wrenching, emotional challenges. They are obsessed with the desire to inflict a positive change in society, a mission commonly perceived as extremely difficult, if not impossible. According to the Ameritech College of Healthcare, this painful reality takes a toll on anyone with such a daunting desire and can result in a condition known as compassion fatigue—emotional exhaustion and withdrawal due to increased workload and institutional stress. Other names for compassion fatigue include vicarious traumatization, secondary traumatic stress, and burnout.
Compassion fatigue is common among people working with trauma victims such as therapists, teachers, nurses, psychologists, police officers, etc. Symptoms include hopelessness, stress and anxiety, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, sleeplessness, nightmares, and a pervasive negative attitude. It is detrimental both professionally and personally and can lead to a decrease in productivity, the inability to focus, and the development of feelings of incompetence and self-doubt.
The American Psychiatric Association reported
- 75 % of rescue workers have mild symptoms of psychological trauma following a disaster. Several factors, including longer periods of deployment, inexperience, close contact with corpses and longer shifts, are associated with greater mental health.
The New York Times reported
- Medical faculty members have been shown to have burnout rates ranging from 20% to 49%, while nearly half of physicians and over 50% of trainees have this experience.
The chances of experiencing compassion fatigue are particularly high for those who receive minimal positive feedback, which can be the case for professionals working with terminally ill patients or those suffering from dementia. Therapists, or others who spend much of their time with clients struggling with post-traumatic stress, often see little improvement after many treatment sessions, which can result in the feeling of hopelessness.
Post-Traumatic Stress and Veterans
While those suffering from trauma need and deserve effective treatment, treating veterans with post-traumatic stress (PTSD) can be particularly burdensome. They are often discouraged and/or depressed over their inability to successfully return to civilian life. Veterans are known to give up on treatment if they do not immediately see or feel results and instead may turn to alcohol and drugs, and in some cases even death; the suicide rate of veterans is twice as high as civilians.
Reducing Compassion Fatigue – Talk it Out
Finding and developing a healthy support system is one of the best methods for overcoming compassion fatigue. Supervision groups and meetings are available for those suffering and play the role of a support system. However, a healthy support system does not have to be through a group or meeting setting. Having a friend or relative to rely on will also help with compassion fatigue. Additionally, there are a number of retreats available throughout the U.S. designed to allow people to escape the high demands of daily life while consulting professionals about compassion fatigue.
Create a Spot Where Stress Is Not Allowed
Retreats and support systems are wonderful but do not answer the need for daily, on the spot, stress relief. At the office, create a stress-free zone, even if it is only a corner of the lounge or cafeteria. Post a “Stress-Free Zone” sign, add soothing artwork or flowers; do whatever is necessary to inform others that the designated area is a stress-free zone. The only rule: No venting allowed; that spot is solely for relaxing.
Just Say “No”
The downside of being great at your job is being constantly asked to do more. People who devote their lives to helping others can find it very difficult to say “No” when asked to do one more thing. However, sometimes even one additional small task can push you too far when you already feel overwhelmed. Instead of agreeing to take on more work as a “favor,” simply say you can’t do it today. Sometimes you also have to say “No” at home or socially.
Take Time for You
How do you refresh your mind, body, and spirit? After all, you need to be at your best, emotionally and physically, to be most effective for your clients. Restorative self-care must be a priority. Find what works for you, whether music, yoga, running or reading etc., and put it on your schedule. You deserve and need this time to be your best.
Increase Your Sense of Meaningfulness
In any endeavor, success is a powerful energizer, allowing you to build a sense of purpose and meaning. When you’ve dedicated your life to helping others, knowing you have personally helped someone overcome their trauma, and improve their quality of life is as essential as the air you breathe. The more positive results you see in your clients or patients, the less compassion fatigue or burnout you are likely to experience.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) provides positive experiences for both clinicians and clients. Clinicians can resolve a client’s traumatic memory through a combination of relaxation and memory visualization. This approach provides effective relief from the strong physical and emotional reactions associated with post-traumatic stress (PTSD), trauma, anxiety, performance, and depression, in as few as one to five sessions.
Rather than treating a client over an extended period, this evidence-based psychotherapy fosters rapid recovery by reprogramming how traumatic images and memories are stored in the brain, in an average of 4 sessions. Effective, rapid and successful treatment is life-changing for clients and combats compassion fatigue in clinicians.
To learn more, contact ART International.