There are times when caring can feel exhausting. This experience does not mean that someone is insensitive, but rather that they feel burned out emotionally. It can be difficult to cope with compassion fatigue, especially in the wake of Covid.
Staying Sensitive During Global Disaster
The 2020 global pandemic uprooted the lives of every person on the planet. Delays, cancellations, closures, and shutdowns changed the course of the future. The world has been coping with grief, instability, and isolation as everyone must navigate this “new normal.”
Additionally, economic instabilities have affected the way of life for millions. The Covid-19 pandemic is still ongoing, two years later, with no end in sight.
Those in the healthcare industry face the brunt of it all, whether they work in a hospital, as an EMT, or as a mental healthcare professional. Having dealt directly with the worst-case scenario for so long, it is no wonder why those in healthcare often become burnt out or numb to everything that is happening. Despite these circumstances, healthcare professionals still have to keep going, so what can be done to avoid losing the compassion necessary for this field?
When Caring Becomes Too Much
It is natural for human beings to be empathetic to each other. Humans are communal and cooperative beings. This is how the human race has survived for thousands of years. Some humans are more understanding or compassionate than others, so much so that they choose a career that allows them to help others. If a person is giving too much and is not taking the time to decompress, they can experience burnout or become numb to everything around them.
Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue is not just simply burnout. It can result from a multitude of stressful occurrences. It is also commonly referred to as a “secondary stress reaction” or “secondary traumatic stress.” Symptoms of compassion fatigue include:
- Mood swings
- Emotional detachment
- Anxiety and depression
- Difficulty being productive
- Physical fatigue
- Digestive issues
- Changes in appetite
Another symptom of compassion fatigue can also be the development of an addiction, which reveals itself through drug misuse, alcoholism, and even overworking. This development is common, as even healthcare professionals might use substances or distractions to cope with compassion fatigue symptoms.
Ways to Remain Compassionate
Practice self-care. Healthcare professionals need to prioritize self-care, even in the age of Covid. It is not selfish for individuals to take time for themselves, especially when they spend most of the day helping others heal. It is okay for them to take their minds off everything at work and focus inward. Taking a bath after work and enjoying the bubbles is okay as well. Enjoying time with friends and family by laughing is encouraged. It is necessary to ensure that individuals are at their best, especially if their job is about helping others.
Take a break to avoid burnout. If individuals can do so, it is crucial to take time off. This work reprieve can even include enjoying their days off guilt-free. It is true that currently, hospitals are over capacity, and there is a lack of mental healthcare resources, so chances are, they are overworked.
Individuals should cherish those precious moments of downtime and focus on remaining present throughout. Every single quiet moment is sacred, especially during times of global crisis. This time away is a chance to breathe and should be prioritized.
Process your feelings. A lot of the time, a person may feel numb because they ignore their feelings. They believe that they cannot deal with their emotions right now, so they put them away for later. Despite these noble intentions, later usually fails to arrive.
Mental healthcare professionals and medical professionals are exposed to trauma nearly every day. Whether it is something they witness or someone’s story they hear, it can take a toll on their mental health. They feel these things and should not ignore them. It does not make them weak or less professional by acknowledging they are in an uncomfortable place. It is quite the contrary.
These individuals are typically very invested and highly efficient at their jobs. By realizing the importance of honesty and vulnerability in therapy, the process can be that much more effective for them. Even if it’s complicated, doing so can prove to be very beneficial.
Talk it out with co-workers. Everyone is in this together. By working with a team of other healthcare professionals, individuals can encourage them to have difficult conversations about what they are all going through in a safe space. Talking about the stresses of work, venting, and relating can help them feel less alone.
During life-changing global disasters, doctors and counselors have it the hardest. Those who went into those professions did so because they wanted to be healers and helpers in their community. However, healthcare professionals must take time to take care of themselves as well, even when things get hard and resources are spread paper-thin. At Jaywalker Lodge in beautiful Colorado, we value mental health care professionals’ hard work and courage. The year 2020 became one of the most challenging years in recent history, and the years that have followed have not been much easier. If you are a mental healthcare professional, take breaks when you can and take care of yourself first.
Jaywalker Lodge values our team and their work during these difficult times. If you would like to learn more about compassion fatigue and what you can do to refill your cup, call us today at (866) 529-9255. We are here to help.
As Chief Executive Officer Bill provides leadership and manage all day-to-day operations of Jaywalker Lodge, an extended care residential addiction treatment program for adult men.