Those of us prone to experiencing compassion satisfaction work in helping professions such as teaching, nursing and social work. Compassion satisfaction, identified as the gratification we experience from helping others, is often achieved when we, as caregivers, develop an emotional and physical balance within our personal and professional lives.
In addition to fulfilling our professional caregiving roles, we often display caregiving qualities and empathy toward our friends and family. As a result, we may begin to experience compassion fatigue as well, described as burnout or secondary traumatic stress. In order to attain and sustain compassion satisfaction, it is also necessary to have an understanding of how to recognize, prevent, and reduce compassion fatigue.
When feeling fatigued, burned out, and affected by traumatic stress, we are likely to experience apathy in our personal and professional connections, dissatisfaction in our jobs, difficulty separating our job from our personal lives, unhealthy choices and risk-taking behaviors, more mistakes or low productiveness at work, chronic fatigue and depression, feelings of being stuck and isolated, as well as unhelpful intrusive and repetitive thoughts.
On the other hand, when we are satisfied in our professional and personal lives, we are likely to experience feelings of success and a sense of wellbeing, motivation and a desire to complete our job responsibilities, the ability to let go of work at the end of the day, rejuvenation from helping others, a meaningful connection in our relationships, less effort setting healthy boundaries, as well as time and energy to engage self-care.
There are several strategies for developing awareness of and monitoring our wellness in caregiving roles, including, gauging energy levels throughout the day, the quality of our relationships with others, our job satisfaction and performance, the strength of our self-image and feelings of success, our ability to follow through with self-care activities, our immunity and resilience against stress, as well as our limits and boundaries between work and personal lives.
When we recognize the potential for burnout and traumatic stress, it’s necessary to activate wellness strategies, which may protect us, our relationships and our career.
Strategies for building wellness and resilience against stress include:
Taking regular breaks from your caregiving role
Participating in activities that fill you up
Prioritizing self-care (exercise, eating healthy, sleeping, etc.)
Connecting with friends, family, and community
Identifying and setting limits
Knowing and investing in your values
Practicing mindfulness and completing one task at a time
Processing the impact of stress while staying solution focused
Tapping into your creative side
Most importantly, seeking professional support when the secondary traumatic stress is causing impairments in your wellness.
More information about compassion satisfaction and fatigue is available through the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project at compassionfatigue.org. In addition, you may find several measures for assessing your compassion satisfaction and risk factors on this site, under their resources, along with suggested readings on how to build wellness.
Professional and community support resources can be located in the Barton Health Community Resource Directory, located throughout Barton facilities. If you’re experiencing a mental health emergency, please call the 24-hour crisis line at 800-929-1955 or 530-544-2219, go to your local emergency room, or call 911 and request a welfare check.
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