Compassion Fatigue Is Real

Posted on

Jan 15, 2016

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Can a person care too much? Caring for others can be stressful.
Caregivers can experience a reduction or loss in their caring capacity after repeated or prolonged exposure to persons suffering physical pain, emotional or social distress. Thus, compassion fatigue is considered the cost of caring for others in emotional pain.
Compassion fatigue differs from burnout in that compassion fatigue derives from the stresses experienced in the relationships with patients and families. Burnout is a physical and emotional response related to workplace stressors that results in a withdrawal or detachment from the workplace. Caring individuals are at risk of both burnout and compassion fatigue when they do not take care of themselves.
Compassion fatigue is not a disease. It is a response to a secondary stress exposure to pain and suffering and considered a post-traumatic stress disorder. Individuals who are at risk for compassion fatigue are often other-directed, have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, lack good boundaries, personal and professional skills, have a history of prior trauma.
Compassion fatigue affects the physical, emotional and spiritual health and the functional ability of the caregiver.
Physical symptoms of compassion fatigue include: headache, increased blood pressure, weight gain, diabetes, gastrointestinal conditions, and immune dysfunction.
Emotional manifestations include: forgetfulness, emotional outbursts, insomnia, recurrent nightmares or flashbacks, sadness, apathy, impulse to rescue, substance abuse, persistent physical ailments and a lack of self-care practices, social isolation, loss of interest in activities, and spiritual questioning.
Compassion fatigue can be prevented and combated with strategies that involve self-awareness, workplace or community resources and self-care practices. Self-care practices have been shown in recent studies to successfully overcome compassion fatigue.
Self-Care practices involve proper nutrition, regular cardiovascular and strength building exercise, adequate sleep and rest and mental health and self-compassion strategies. Practices that reduce chronic stress include: mindfulness, meditation, centered prayer, massage, yoga, Tai-Chi, Nia, dance, music, hobbies and creative arts.
Also, remember to nurture healthy emotional, spiritual and relationship practices. Exercise personal choices that promote health, energy, joy and compassion. Plan to continue to learn more about compassion fatigue and share with others. Editors Note: This article submitted by Vivienne Armstrong, MSN, RN; a volunteer with Ed-U-CARE Dallas. She may be reached at 972-239-9230 or educaredallas@gmail.com

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