Compassion fatigue is a state of emotional exhaustion that can occur in health and care professionals, who frequently work with clients or service users who are suffering. It can lead to a decrease in empathy and compassion towards patients, which can negatively impact patient care.
Some signs of compassion fatigue include:
Feeling emotionally exhausted or overwhelmed.
Decreased empathy towards patients.
Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
Increased irritability or anger.
Changes in sleep patterns or appetite.
Feeling detached from work or colleagues.
Decreased job satisfaction.
It might be that in your personal life, rather than work, some of these signs manifest, for example, feeling more irritable with loved ones and distant from them.
Subtle signs that your feelings of compassion fatigue is beginning to increase, is that you are behaving in a caring and compassionate way, but in your mind, you’re thinking “I’ve seen much worse” or “they’re exaggerating their pain.”
To manage compassion fatigue, consider the following strategies:
Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga can help reduce stress and improve your ability to cope with difficult situations. This can help you to regulate in the moment.
Take breaks: It is likely that it will be difficult to take regular breaks throughout the day to recharge and refocus. Where you can, meet your basic needs of eating, drinking and improving the quality of your sleep.
Cultivate Healthy Relationships: Outside work, engage with those who bring you happiness, joy and fun. This can support you to relax and switch off from the pressures of work.
Journal: Journaling can be a positive way to process and release emotions that might arise from work. It can help develop self-awareness and prevent suppression of feelings, which over time can add to compassion fatigue.