Compassion fatigue can be challenging to recognize and overcome, but these tips can help.
As a family caregiver, you give so much of yourself to the person in your care. It’s easy to become emotionally and/or physically depleted and to feel exhausted, apathetic, and detached. The term for this condition is compassion fatigue, or secondary traumatic stress. It is not only harmful to you, but can impact the person in your care as well.
How Is Compassion Fatigue Different From Caregiver Burnout?
There are some key differences between caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue. Burnout develops slowly, over time, while compassion fatigue can strike suddenly and unexpectedly. Additional signs of compassion fatigue include:
- Problems with making decisions
- Feelings of irritability, anger, or anxiety
- Fatigue (mentally and/or physically)
- A sense of dread about your caregiving tasks, coupled with feelings of guilt
- Sleeping problems
- Isolating from other family members and friends
- A lack of interest in formerly enjoyed activities
- A lack of sympathy or empathy for the person in your care
- Feelings of uncertainty about your role as a caregiver and whether you’re making a difference
What Can You Do About Compassion Fatigue?
If you’re experiencing the above symptoms that could point to compassion fatigue, try these strategies.
- Assess the intensity of your feelings. Rank how intense your compassion fatigue symptoms are each day on a scale of 1 – 10. If you are giving yourself scores in the range of 9 –10, make an appointment to talk with a mental health professional.
- Set aside regular time for self-care. Self-care is not selfish. It’s necessary for both your own health and that of your family member. Make sure to designate time each day for activities you enjoy, healthy meals, exercise, and conversations with friends and family.
- Build a network of support. Join a caregiver support group to give you the opportunity to talk with others who are walking a similar journey as yours. You can share with each other your feelings as well as tactics that have helped you cope with your caregiving role.
- Journal. Journaling can be a highly effective way to reduce stress and work through difficult feelings and decisions. Take a look back over what you have written periodically as well to look for patterns and triggers. For instance, if you’re experiencing compassion fatigue symptoms more strongly at the end of the day, you can begin calming activities prior to that time to proactively de-stress.
Our caregiving team fully understands how overwhelmed family caregivers can become. We’re here to help with professional respite care services that allow you to make time to take care of yourself. In this way, you can return refreshed and ready to provide the best possible care for someone you love.
Contact us any time at 800-298-5140 or visit our Locations page to see if our services are available in your area.