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Caring for others, whether as a career or in an individual capacity, is always a privilege. Being there for someone in their time of need enables us to connect with our true humanity and often provides a service when there is none.
It does, however, often take its toll if the carer doesn’t care for themselves. Nowadays, with the bombardment of people’s suffering, we are often exposed to pain that we would not encounter under other circumstances.
Caring too much can hurt. When caregivers focus on others without practicing self-care, destructive behaviours can surface. Apathy, isolation, bottled up emotions and substance abuse head a long list of symptoms associated with the secondary traumatic stress disorder now labelled: Compassion Fatigue
While the effects of Compassion Fatigue can cause pain and suffering, learning to recognise and manage its symptoms is the first step toward healing.
Compassion fatigue used to be a problem that was most commonly seen among health care professionals. Because their work puts them in situations where they commonly see or hear about ongoing and sometimes unspeakable suffering, it is not unusual to see some of our most skilled, caring, and compassionate "helpers" fall victim to compassion fatigue.
However, in today's world, where every tragedy is instantly broadcast live in living colour directly into our living rooms (TV), laps (laptop), and/or hands (smartphone), compassion fatigue is no longer unique to certain professions. Signs of compassion fatigue include:
If you are feeling distressed, frustrated, guilty, exhausted, or annoyed, it is important to know that these feelings are normal. It can be easy to put your own needs last, but it is important if you are feeling tired or stressed to look after yourself, so you are still able to care for others. Seek help if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms.
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Credit: compassionfatigue.org; psychologytoday.com
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