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.