Compassion fatigue is a weariness of body and spirit, caused by the never-ending demands of caregiving. This form of burnout can come on quickly, and before you know it, you feel like you’ve hit the wall. You may even wonder if you can continue to be a caregiver. There are steps you can take to alleviate the symptoms of compassion fatigue. Your goal is to stop compassion fatigue before it stops you.
- Assess the situation. Exhaustion may cloud your judgment and things may not be as bad as they seem. If you are unable to do this on your own, ask for help.
- Consider your overall health. Do you have physical problems of your own, such as arthritis, or a sprained ankle? Illness can slow you down and change our outlook.
- Check your support system. Family members and friends may have moved away, and although you feel alone, you can shore up your support system. This takes time, and is worth your time.
- Be aware of your feelings and name them (impatience, anxiety, worry, etc.) Keep in mind that feelings can change quickly.
- Determine if you’re down or depressed. There’s a huge difference between the two and you need to know the differences. You’ll find helpful articles on the Internet and other resources at the public library.
- Talk to a trusted family member, friend, or colleague. One person can get you through a dark time. Venting your feelings makes you feel better, but don’t share too much at once. You don’t want to wear out the other person.
- Each day, try to have one meaningful conversation. This conversation may be with a health professional, another family caregiver, certified counselor, or religious leader. Contact a friend that you haven’t seen in weeks.
- Build “me time” into your days. A few minutes of doing something you enjoy, such as knitting, can boost your spirits. You may even wish to sign up for an adult education course.
- Stay physically active. A short walk, 15 minutes in your neighborhood, can change your outlook. Your loved one may belong to a health club and the two of you may exercise together.
- Take care of you. Don’t let others tell you how to do this. You’re the person who knows you best, and what makes you feel good.
- Retain selected social contacts. Options include going out for coffee, attending a meeting, or having dinner with friends. A few minutes away from the demands of caregiving can save your day.
- Monitor your self-talk. Once negative self-talk gets started, it’s hard to stop it, and will continue unless you take action. When a negative thought comes to mind, try to balance it with a positive one.
- Affirm your caregiving with words. Writing affirmations about caregiving can change your attitude in surprising ways. Keep your affirmations short. One-sentence affirmations are easier to write and remember.
Learn more in Harriet’s book, The Family Caregiver’s Guide.