Alayna Mastrippolito, Author, Certified Peer Supporter
Are you always taking care of others? Perhaps you work as a nurse or a counselor, or maybe you’re the main source of income for your household, the caretaker of a sick relative, or you just happen to be the person that those in your life come to for help. You may experience compassion fatigue from time to time.
Compassion fatigue is the emotional and physical burden created by caring for others in distress. It’s the cost of losing yourself in the process of caring for others. Compassion fatigue symptoms may include anxiety, depression, feeling overwhelmed, irritation, frustration, worthlessness, isolation, and physical ailments.
It’s possible to take care of others without experiencing compassion fatigue, and it all starts with how you take care of yourself. The key is to allow yourself to make YOU a priority. Those who suffer from compassion fatigue often experience feelings of shame and selfishness around prioritizing themselves over others, but it’s necessary to give yourself that time in order to be able to take care of others. A way to ensure that you’ll take care of yourself is to create your own self-care plan. This allows you to uphold your own physical and mental well-being consistently, and it doesn’t have to take up much of your schedule.
Another important component of limiting compassion fatigue is having good boundaries. Boundaries allow you to love yourself and others at the same time. If you feel overwhelmed or taken advantage of, it’s hard to maintain your compassion to begin with. Setting boundaries within caretaking doesn’t mean you’re leaving others in the dust; this can look like asking for assistance or offering to help at a different time. By setting boundaries, you’re able to take care of your own needs while also taking care of the needs of others. Helping others should not be hurtful to you.
Try connecting back to the reason you began helping people in the first place when you feeling a bout of compassion fatigue. Your altruism likely gives you a sense of meaning which is important to your life purpose. Don’t overextend yourself to the point of forgetting the reasons why you care or getting so burnt out that you can’t help anymore.
You deserve to be taken care of too.
Alayna Mastrippolito, Author, Certified Peer Supporter
We’ve all had the experience of feeling so overwhelmed and drained, yet having too many items on the to-do list to be able to rest. You’re backed up on work, the house is a mess, you haven’t had much time with your loved ones, and *sigh*... it’s only Tuesday??
According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, burnout is defined as “physical, emotional or mental exhaustion, accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance and negative attitudes towards oneself and others”. It’s the result of doing too much of what drains you, without enough rejuvenation. Though there are times in life when it’s necessary and even beneficial to work hard, spending each day squeezing out every ounce of energy you have until you’re completely depleted is not a very sustainable or pleasant lifestyle.
Here are three steps to help you avoid burnout:
1) Know what your priorities and values are. Write these down and keep them someplace you’ll see often. Be clear on what matters to you so that you know what you want to work towards. This allows you to have a purpose behind your daily actions, rather than simply achieving for the sole purpose of being productive. Helpful questions to ask yourself might include: What uplifts and fulfills you? What promotes your personal growth? What is your reason for getting up each day?
2) Spend time on things that matter to you. Take a second look at your schedule. Is there anything on it that doesn’t align with your priorities and values? Is it possible to remove anything from your schedule that’ll make this week feel less draining? Is there anything you can delegate? When you’re spending more time on activities that you’re passionate about, you’ll feel more energized and less worn out.
3) Take time to recharge. In order to be productive, it’s essential to take time to restore your energy each day by taking care of your mind, body, and spirit in ways that make sense to you. A few ideas for rejuvenating activities include walking in nature, yoga, meditation, reading, creating art, journaling, calling a loved one, and practicing gratitude and self-love. It’s also important to be able to recognize your personal signs of feeling overwhelmed. This is the tipping point of your productivity when it’s actually more productive to rest!
You’re allowed to create the life you want. Be kind to yourself in the process.
“I am a human being, not a human doing.” ― Kurt Vonnegut
The Importance of Regular Self-care
By: Jessa N. Bame MSW, LSW, SUDP
Self-care is like good dental hygiene. You wouldn’t wait until you have cavities to brush your teeth. So why should you wait until you’re in crisis to practice self-care? The answer is you shouldn’t.
Regular self-care is an important part of your physical and mental health. By setting aside time to do something that takes you to a more positive state you are contributing to your overall health.
Contrary to popular belief, self-care can be quick, inexpensive, and easy to do. The trick is to DO IT! Become a self-care master in just three simple steps:
Step 1: Think of things that bring you joy, rejuvenate you, or positively impact your mental state.
While self-care activities are often associated with females, self-care is for everyone and can be anything. Choosing a self-care activity is simpler than you think. Have you ever said to yourself, “I miss doing…” or “I wish I still did…”? That “thing” you wish you still did is a perfect place to start. Self-care is unique to each person and each person can have several different self-care activities. For some it could be morning meditations and for others it might be volunteering. Self-care could even be deciding to stay home when you’re not feeling great. The key is to choose things that fill your cup not empty it.
Step 2: Incorporate the self-care activity into your routine.
Self-care generates the best results when it’s regularly practiced, so make it easy on yourself! Try setting reminders on your phone to trigger yourself to practice self-care or create a self-care box with your “go-to” self-care tools. Self-care can even be incorporated into things you do in your day-to-day life. For example, during your commute you can listen to music or call a friend. You can even take 10-minute breaks throughout the day to read a chapter from your favorite book. These small moments you take for yourself pay dividends down the road.
Step 3: Reflect on your results.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that self-care is not about perfection. It is better to attempt a self-care activity and do it poorly than to do nothing at all. Reflect on the times you practiced self-care. How did you feel? Is your routine working or do you need to try something else?
Jessa N. Bame MSW, LSW, SUDP