Whether leading, helping those who are hurting, or serving in some other capacity, the strain of exposure to those suffering can lead to compassion fatigue. Here are some easy ways to recognize compassion fatigue when it starts and take steps to avoid—or eliminate—it all together.
- Know your limitations.
Recognize that everyone has a different emotional capacity to hold others’ pain and trauma. Each person must be aware of their unique threshold and know how it fluctuates depending on what is going on in their personal life.
Here are a few of the symptoms:
- Emotional, mental, or physical exhaustion
- Loss of hope
- Anger toward perpetrators or causal events
- Pull back when feeling overwhelmed.
When an individual begins to feel overwhelmed, they often “buckle down” and try harder. But it is far better to pull back when feeling overburdened and do some self-care.
- Seek help when struggling.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed. Some individuals can help those who are hurting, but they should never do this at the neglect of their own needs. Therefore, it’s essential to have a safe support system in place—like a Life Recovery Group, counselor, or coach—to turn to when a crisis arises or if a word of encouragement is needed. Some ways to alleviate compassion fatigue include:
- Talking to someone
- Taking time off
- Getting enough sleep
- Exercising and eating properly
- Scheduling activities that bring joy
- Honestly evaluate motives.
If someone always tends to take on others’ troubles or do for others what they can do for themselves, this may be a sign that they are struggling with codependency. The roots of codependency, no doubt, perhaps go back to childhood because it was a survival mechanism used in their family of origin. But as an adult, it’s possible to break free from these deeply rooted patterns. Seeing a licensed counselor will help.
- Just say no.
When an individual has reached their emotional capacity, they should not be afraid to say no. Everyone gets overwhelmed at times, especially when trying to help others. Even Jesus experienced fatigue. But He also took time to rest and urged His disciples to “Go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile (Mark 6:31, NLT). Telling others no, as well as taking time to relax and recharge, is often the best thing to do.
by Dr. Sheri Keffer and Chris Williams