Caregiving is not for the faint of heart. With all of the joys and rewards that come with caring for another person, also comes caregiver burnout, exhaustion, frustration, and sometimes even compassion fatigue. Though caregiver burnout is common amongst those in caretaking and caregiving roles, few are aware of compassion fatigue and the effect it can have on a person’s mental health and attitude.
According to Christine Valetin, a licensed clinical social worker and counselor in New York and New Jersey, compassion fatigue is defined as “an extreme state of stress and tension that can result in feelings of hopelessness, indifference, pessimism, and an overall disinterest in other people’s issues.”
In other words, compassion fatigue occurs when a person becomes emotionally withdrawn due to the needs of others, because he or she is too physically and mentally exhausted to take on the emotional burden of another patient’s suffering.
It is very important to note that compassion fatigue does not happen overnight. It is the result of a caregiver spending many days, weeks, months, and even years caring for someone without prioritizing his or her own mental health and needs. Keep reading to learn more about compassion fatigue and how to recognize, prevent, and stop it in its tracks!
How Is Compassion Fatigue Related To Caregiver Burnout?
Caregiver burnout is caused by everyday work stresses. Unlike compassion fatigue, however, caregiver burnout does not result in a weakened sense of empathy for those in a caregiver’s care. But, if a caregiver does not take the preventative steps necessary to prioritize a healthy mental state, caregiver burnout can most definitely evolve into compassion fatigue over time. In fact, compassion fatigue most often occurs when a person has tolerated the intolerable for too long and as such, has reached a breaking point. If you are experiencing regular caregiver burnout, make sure you reach out to a friend, family member, co-worker, or supervisor to ensure you have the support you need. We are here for you!
How Do I Recognize and Prevent Compassion Fatigue?
Become familiar with the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue so that you can prevent the long-term emotional trauma that comes along with it. If you notice yourself or another caregiver exhibiting any of these signs below, keep reading to learn about how to prevent and reverse the effects of compassion fatigue.
- Sudden outbursts
- Increased impatience
- Feeling emotionally drained
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Impaired decision making
- Tense interactions with loved ones at home
How Can I Reduce My Stress Levels To Combat Compassion Fatigue?
While compassion fatigue is very real, it is also very preventable and reversible. In order to combat and confront compassion fatigue, consider implementing these five tips into your routine!
Physical activity is just as beneficial for the body as it is for the mind. In fact, the act of exercising releases natural endorphins in the brain that can work wonders in improving your mood and lessening your pain.
Consider using meditation to help decrease anxiety, agitation, and stress, as well as to develop skills that will allow you to step back from stressful caregiving situations in the future.
If you are experiencing stress as a result of caregiving, consider taking it easy after you finish your shift. You definitely deserve some “me” time to recharge and refresh, and doing so will not only benefit you and your mental health, but it will also benefit your clients…because it will enable you to provide only the best care possible!
Make Healthy Choices
In order to prevent stress and compassion fatigue, make sure you are eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and drinking plenty of water. Give your body all of the tools it needs to function properly and efficiently!
Ask For Help
Never be afraid to ask your co-workers, team members, and even friends and family for extra support during tough times. Whether it’s through professional counseling or a friend’s sympathetic ear, everyone needs an outlet for their work stress…especially caregivers. Let your supervisor know if you are feeling overwhelmed so that we can help you find the support you need to be the Superstar Caregiver we know that you are!
Caregivers, please know that you are appreciated beyond what words could possibly explain. Even if you do not hear it every day, we are so grateful for you, and would love to provide you with whatever support you need to get the job done right (within reason, of course!) If you are experiencing caregiver burnout or compassion fatigue, please let us know so that we can help you get back on track. We recognize that we would not be Senior Solutions Home Care without you and are so thankful for your hard work and dedication to our clients in need!