By Morgan D. Love, MSW Clinical Therapist | CAST Centers
In the field of psychology, compassion is regarded as a practice involving elements of empathy and care. Compassion is defined as the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Compassion fatigue typically occurs in response to the depth of empathic involvement required to work with individuals seeking help and is widely recognized as a pathway to occupational burnout and is detrimental to physical and mental wellbeing. Compassion fatigue is a form of burnout, often experienced by those providing support to others, including caregivers, first responders, educators, and other paraprofessionals. Compassion fatigue can develop rapidly, resulting from an intensive empathic involvement with people who are in active distress.
PREVENTING COMPASSION FATIGUE
The prevention of compassion fatigue starts with an awareness of psychological and physiological warning signs. It is important to interpret warning signs as mindful data that your self-care needs are under-nourished.
CULTIVATING CARE FOR SELF
As community helpers, healers, educators, paraprofessionals and overall compassionate beings; it is important to practice self-care with intention; otherwise, your ability to provide meaningful help to others will become compromised. Macro level self-care includes connection to resources: such as, scheduling physical health appointments, embracing sleep and rest, practicing healthy nutrition, taking vacations, connecting with meaningful systems of support, and spending time doing activities of pleasure. It is also important to meet your emotional wellness needs by seeking professional support and asking for help. This may include going to see a family doctor, trauma specialist, therapist, or psychiatrist.
Micro-self-care involves returning to the breath, and internal spirit, during the busiest of days, by taking a moment to breathe, strengthen self-awareness, practice self-compassion, set a daily intention, activate pause for self-embrace, or by practicing grounding exercises that integrate your five senses.
The American Psychological Association suggest that helping professionals should strive to maintain an awareness of their wellbeing and its potential impact on their ability to help those with whom they work.
Research has confirmed that performing meditation can improve self-compassion and decrease compassion fatigue. Mindful meditation is a powerful tool for grounding emotions, developing gratitude and kindness; and managing stress.
Self-compassion breaks, creating a self-care vision board, mindful eating, going on nature walks are additional effective practices that promote wellness and restoration. Helping those in need requires empathic involvement, while fostering mindful self-compassion, self-kindness, and integrating balance into your own life.
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