If you are a “helper” in any profession (i.e. counselor, pastor, medical provider etc.) you may have heard of the term “compassion fatigue.” The Oxford Dictionary defines this as the “indifference to charitable appeals on behalf of suffering people, experienced as a result of the frequency or number of such appeals.” In other words, you have a lot of needs that hit you at once and that happens often. Sound familiar? Well, in order to continue to enjoying your work and ignite your compassion flame you have to take care of yourself!
Here are a few tried and true ways to avoid compassion fatigue:
1. Leave work at work.
This is a huge area of struggle for helpers! We are empathetic, right? We love to help people and their stories are impactful. Be careful how much mind space you give to the things of work while you are trying to enjoy your family at home, your dinner, or even your morning/nightly routines. It’s very tempting to check emails and respond immediately even when you are on the couch watching Netflix – don’t do it. Leave work at work. You will thank me for this and so will your family!
2. Create professional boundaries.
If you say you are leaving at 5, then leave at 5. If you have lunch scheduled but then someone needs “crisis counseling” it’s okay to say you need to eat your lunch! If someone walks into your office and wants to have a talk at a horrible time, it’s okay to say “Oh wow, sounds like that would be a great conversation. Let’s plan to meet about that on (insert date/time).” The occasional wavering from your professional boundaries is fine. As a compassionate helper we all know it is our greatest temptation to continue helping at the cost of our schedules, but if you do that too often, you’re likely to burn out! Keep to your professional boundaries as closely as possible. This could also mean saying no to additional projects, conversations and activities. It is OK to walk away and not take on the entire office load of problems
3. Enjoy LOADS of self-care.
When is the last time you took time to just care for yourself? It could be in the form of a massage, a walk in a quiet park or a really fun night of video games. Self-care will really look different for each person. For ideas on how to increase your self-care, check out my article on “10 Ways to increase self-care”.
4. Create an enjoyable work environment.
This is one of my favorite things! I just adore having a nice office. I like to change out my flowers, pictures, bookshelf accessories, drink coasters and use cute file folders! I enjoy playing music in between clients and burning a little spearmint essential oil to lift myself up. You are constantly giving parts of yourself away throughout the day and creating an environment you enjoy is one way you can provide a little nourishment for yourself. If you work in a large office with a lot of people coming in and out, maybe it’s something as simple as a favorite pen, single fresh flower, a mini frame, or some aromatherapy lotion in your purse. Keep things on hand that can give back to you throughout your work hours.
5. Enjoy non-work hobbies & community events.
Hobbies can in some ways fall into self-care, but they are different in that they can include even a community in which you can get involved. For instance, if you are an artist, go out and enjoy an art class or art show. If you enjoy singing, join a local choir. If you play basketball, find some people to play with in a local league. You get the idea. The point is that you don’t just see your family and coworkers. You are starting to enjoy the company of people who don’t just want to talk about family issues or work problems. A common community that can be a great resource are churches or local spiritual groups. Get creative with this one. For some of your seasoned helpers, this might take some time to think about, but I am sure you think of something new and novel you would enjoy. And… * IF you say you have no time for this… YOU NEED THIS! Ironic isn’t it? If you have too much on your plate that you cannot even enjoy an occasional gathering on a topic you love, reevaluate your schedule.
Here’s a little sneak peak of how
I prevent compassion fatigue in my office!…
We would love to work with you! If you would like to scheduled a session, feel free to contact Flourish Counseling Co. at 407-630-7529 or schedule immediately with us online at www.flourishcounseling.co.
About the Author
Cristina Ally, LMHC, is the owner of Flourish Counseling Co. in Winter Park, Florida. She specializes in women’s issues, sexual abuse recovery and diabetic lifestyle adjustment. She has helped countless individuals and families reach optimal mental and emotional health by providing counseling and trauma resolution in the Orlando area since 2015. She is currently the President of the Mental Health Counselors of Central Florida and is a passionate advocate for mental health.