“The essence of love and compassion, understanding the ability to recognise the physical, material and psychological suffering of others, to put ourselves “inside the skin” of the other. We “go inside” their body, feelings and mental formations and witness for ourselves their suffering. Shallow observation as an outsider is not enough to see their suffering. We must become one with the subject of our observation. When we are in contact with another’s suffering, a feeling of compassion is born in us. Compassion means literally, “to suffer with”. – Thich Nhat Hanh
As part of a new and ongoing series on the blog dedicated to exploring health and wellness, we look into Compassion Fatigue.
Compassion Fatigue is a stress related condition in which one has cared so much for others that there’s nothing left to give*, ultimately leading to burnout. Often referred to as “the cost of caring”, this condition is common for anyone in a caregivers role; parents, nurses, carers, etc. These empathic roles are so important in society as they offer such kind support and guidance for those in need. However it’s common for the caregivers in our society to fall into the habit of continually putting others first and neglecting their own needs, leading to fatigue and burnout as a result. It is during the time that one gives such love and care to others that it’s especially vital to practice self-care in order to be of service to others.
You can’t give from an empty vessel. So make sure that you are refilling your vessel just as much, if not more, than you are pouring out.
Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue
– low energy (physically, mentally and spiritually)
– difficulty sleeping
– poor work-life balance
– difficulty concentrating
– hypersensitivity or detachment
How to prevent Compassion Fatigue
- Practice self-care: do what makes your inner light brighter, often. Whether this is a yoga class, a candlelit bath or reading a book in the park. Treat yourself and treat yourself regularly.
- Eat well and exercise: look after your body with nutritious foods and movement. Regular, healthy meals and a reenergising exercise routine are vital for preventing fatigue.
- Plan rest time: regular rests are important to recharge. Take this time to meditate, have a power nap or go for a nice walk.
- Find the benefit or the lesson in every situation: when you can step back, take stock and find meaning in any situation, you begin to feel grateful for every situation.
- Breathe: mindful breathing exercises clear stagnant energy and help create a sense of calm and focus.
- Set health boundaries: figure out space and values that resonate with you and know that it’s okay to say no and express your needs.
- Join a Carers support group: connect with like minded people, bond over shared experiences and feel supported.
- Play: have fun! Relish your inner child and do something that brings you joy. Allow time where you can let go, with no need to worry about work or other responsibilities, and simply delight in the present moment.
It’s such a wonderful and rewarding role to care for others and share your gifts of compassion and positivity. The more that you practice these strategies, the brighter your energy will glow and the more you can shine your light for others.
Have you experienced compassion fatigue? What do you do to refill your vessel? What do you do for fun?
*The Empath’s Survival Guide by Judith Orloff MD