How to Recognize and Overcome Compassion Fatigue

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Learn to overcome compassion fatigue, which may come on suddenly and negatively impact your health and ability to thrive in a caregiving role.

Family caregivers dedicate so much of themselves to those they care for – both emotionally and physically. It’s easy to become worn down and begin to experience unexpected feelings such as indifference, weariness, and a detachment from the person in your care. Identified as compassion fatigue or secondary traumatic stress, it may be detrimental to your own wellness but could also impact your ability to be as caring, warm, and nurturing as you should be for the person you’re caring for.

Contrary to caregiver burnout, which occurs gradually over time, compassion fatigue can arise abruptly and unexpectedly. You may truly want to continue providing care and support, but there is a strong feeling of being too weighed down to do so.

If you encounter any of the following symptoms, compassion fatigue may be the reason:

  • Exhaustion (physically, mentally, or both)
  • Dreading your care duties, along with feelings of guilt
  • Anger, irritability, and/or anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty with sleeping
  • Reduced feelings of sympathy or empathy for the person in your care
  • Isolation and separation from friends, family, and previously enjoyed activities
  • Problems with other relationships
  • Difficulties with making decisions
  • Second-guessing whether you’re accomplishing the intended goals with your caregiving efforts

How to Overcome Compassion Fatigue

If the description above feels like what you’re experiencing, there are actions you can take to help overcome compassion fatigue:

  • Place a numeric value on your emotions. Take a simple self-assessment by rating how you’re feeling each day on a scale of 1 – 10. If you are finding your answers in the 9 – 10 range regularly, you likely are experiencing some symptoms of compassion fatigue and should speak with a professional counselor.
  • Prioritize time for self-care. Taking care of yourself is not selfish; it’s necessary for your own health as well as the health and wellbeing of the person in your care. Make it a priority every day to spend time on pleasurable activities, exercise, wholesome eating, and having regular conversations with friends and family.
  • Get support. Participate in a caregiver support group, either in person or virtually, to allow you to talk through your feelings with people who know what it feels like to be in your shoes and can share management techniques that have worked well for them.
  • Write it down. Journaling is a great way to alleviate stress and sort through overwhelming emotions and decisions. Looking back through your entries will allow you to observe any patterns in your emotions. Perhaps you feel most exhausted late in the day, and can put aside a few minutes each day at that time to pray, meditate, listen to calming music, take a walk – whatever helps you de-stress.

At San Diego Home Caregivers, a trusted provider of elderly care in La Mesa and the surrounding areas, we’re always here to help you overcome compassion fatigue by serving as your partner in care. Our full range of individualized in-home care services provide seniors with the pleasure of a friendly companion, while offering you much-needed time to yourself. Contact us at (619) 487-9000 to learn more about options for quality in-home caregivers and schedule your free in-home consultation!