We are always taught to help other people in need. Most of us are always on our toes, wanting to help others. But what if helping other people becomes a cause of discomfort and starts to take a toll on our mental health? Most people, including caregivers, medical professionals, teachers, or child protection agency members, frequently go through something termed compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue is a sign that caregivers need care too. It is an indication of the fact that caregivers are humans too. Empathy and compassion are necessary to make the world a better place. However, there comes a certain point where you feel apathetic and drained from extending your help to other people. You are exhausted from continuously acting as the strong one.
Compassion fatigue is a difficult phase to deal with. Let us dive deeper into what exactly the term means and how you can effectively cope with it.
What is compassion fatigue?
Compassion fatigue was a term coined by Carla Joinson in 1992. She referred to it as a loss of nurturing and helping tendency among nurses. Compassion fatigue occurs as a result of empathetic distress. This is because when you are constantly required to be empathetic toward people in difficult situations, you literally put yourself in their position. And this process can end up being highly exhausting.
Signs of compassion fatigue
The signs of compassion fatigue can mirror the signs of burnout. These include:
- feelings of resentment toward the ones you are helping,
- feelings of apathy toward others,
- negativity and guilt because nothing you do feels enough,
- avoiding people and social situations due to fear of being overwhelmed,
- behaving indecisively, and
- experiencing decreased pleasure in helping others.
Read more: Who Is A True Empath?
Ways to cope
1. Set Boundaries.
Helping someone in need and providing care is an act of love and selflessness. However, in the course of providing help to others, you have to learn to set healthy boundaries. At the very first step, you have to realize that it is their experience and problem, not yours. You don’t have to consistently carry the burden of other people’s problems in order to help them. Being a safe space for someone is good until you have predefined boundaries.
2. Practice Self Compassion.
The love you feel for yourself will radiate toward the people you love. So the process of helping others starts with you. As the popular saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” So start pouring in your own cup first.
3. Ask For Help.
If you have been feeling drained and exhausted for a long time, and nothing seems to work out, it is time to take a step back and ask for help. It is important to ask for help no matter how big or small your problems feel compared to others.
Read more: Best Online Therapy Platforms.
Compassion fatigue arises as a result of overextending one’s help toward others. It is when a person gives so much to others that they forget to take care of their own needs. The signs of compassion fatigue can mirror those of burnout. However, the two are different conditions. Self-compassion, healthy boundaries, and adequate resources for help can help people navigate through compassion fatigue better.
Compassion fatigue can get tricky and might often make you feel guilty for not being able to help others. Here are the most effective ways to cope with the guilt and forgive yourself.
To continue learning about mental health, subscribe to Your Mental Health Pal.