You likely decided to become a health care professional because you wanted to help others in need. Your motivation is noble, but the work you do to help others can take a toll on your health. You may experience physical symptoms, such as exhaustion, and emotional symptoms, such as cynicism or frustration. You may develop a psychological disorder like depression. Collectively, these symptoms can comprise a condition known as compassion fatigue.
Burnout is one of the main components of compassion fatigue. It occurs when you try to push yourself beyond your limitations when trying to care for others. If you work in an environment that exposes you to frequent emergency situations or traumatic events, you may start to feel as though you were experiencing the trauma yourself. The term for this phenomenon is secondary traumatic stress, and it can be another component of compassion fatigue.
By administering self-care, building your strengths and not pushing yourself to do more than you are able, you may be able to prevent compassion fatigue. Here are some tips for coping.
1. Give your body sufficient fuel
Make sure that you are receiving good nutrition and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
2. Get enough rest
Lack of sleep can impair both your physical and mental functioning.
Physical activity is important, and you should choose whatever exercise you enjoy doing. It can be a good idea to choose an activity that improves the mind-body connection, such as yoga.
4. Center yourself
Make time to be alone and engage in a centering activity, such as journaling or meditation.
5. Strengthen connections with others
It is important to take some quality time for yourself, but that is not the same thing as isolating yourself from others. During times of stress, you rely on a network of family and friends to support you. Strengthen these bonds by making time to spend with others, whether in a group or one on one.