Today was the first time I’ve heard of Compassion Fatigue and I really thought it was a condition that some wacko came up with during a Marijuana binge. I did some research because I am a curious Curvy Girl who loves to be informed about trends in emotional/mental wellness; and guess what, it really is a legitimate condition.
What the Hell is Compassion Fatigue?
According to Patricia Smith, the founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, compassion fatigue occurs when an individual in specific helping professions develop mental exhaustion and even stress related illnesses because they operate in highly stressful and emotionally charged environments. When an individual is doused with the public’s hurt and pain everyday during a working week, secondary trauma is consistently experienced, resulting in a significant decrease in self-care.
Raise Your Hand If You Have Compassion Fatigue Symptoms!
When I researched the symptoms of this condition, it seemed that I was reading all of the issues that were occurring in my life. I literally self-diagnosed myself after scanning random items on the internet (just joking); but I have many of the symptoms such as:
- Excessive Blaming: That’s right, I have stopped taking responsibility for mistakes and just place blame elsewhere. This may seem like a character flaw, but when you experience overwhelming stress, you really don’t give a shyt.
- Bottled Up Emotions: After a long day of helping others, I am unable to let out all the totally devastating things that I’ve seen and heard in one day. Sometimes bringing your career home taints a happy home life. There are many working couples who never talk about their work because it’s too depressing.
- Isolation From Others: Gosh, this is totally my thing. When you just don’t see the need to communicate or associate with co-workers, you may have compassion fatigue. There are times when I just totally checkout of social norms. Oh well!
- Voice Excessive Complaints about Administrative Functions: Ding, Ding, Ding, Bytches! I question and sometimes become verbally combative even when I know that I can’t change a damn thing policy-related. In some careers, you are required to change when the company steers you in weird and sometimes ill-advised directions. Your only choice is to wait for another change, or give your two weeks notice. I’m not looking do to the latter because of massive student loan debt. There is also this addiction to Amazon that requires me to remain employed to purchase items I don’t really need.
- Difficulty Concentrating: Recently, I went to work, sat in my cubicle, and I could not focus on one task. I decided to pack up my things and leave. Yep, I just walked out of the damn door. I had to take a mental health day from all the urgent matters at hand. Sometimes you have to remove yourself from an environment just to think clearly and do some soul searching as to why you chose a career helping others in need, when your career is literally driving you insane.
- Compulsive Behaviors: This was addressed earlier with the Amazon addiction. The fact that I can just pick up my phone and make emotional purchases on Amazon and get free one-day shipping has inflated my spending habits. Sometimes I find myself surfing Amazon more than social media platforms.
- Chronic Physical Ailments: This year, there was a two month period in which I was physically drained morning, noon, and night. I’ve suffered mental exhaustion before, but pairing it with physical ailments can really put you on your azz. I was guzzling energy drinks and taking B12 supplements daily and nothing worked.
- Substance Abuse: Okay, I wouldn’t say that a glass (or two) of red wine every night is substance abuse, but it is a tool to calm my nerves at the end of a very chaotic day. For three weeks I have decreased my red wine intake to once a week to cut back on my caloric intake, but boy do a miss my red wine right before bed.
- Poor Self-care: I can’t attest to experiencing this symptom because if you are a professional, you can’t show up to work with a stanking azz. I have noticed that I have stopped getting manicures and pedicures every month. And there is the occasional negligence of leg shaving. But I do take pride in cleanliness, for now.
How To Overcome Or Prevent Compassion Fatigue?
Anyone considered a helping professional has undoubtedly experienced compassion fatigue because of all the helping and caring going on at work. There is nothing wrong with caring for the well-being of others, but it’s extremely important to put just as much effort into your own self-care to ensure that you can continue helping others.
Health professionals suggest that sufferers of compassion fatigue engage in activities that battles stress such as exercise. In my case, I attend Zumba classes to battle work-related stress. You have to invest in a self-care routine and don’t neglect your happiness. Attend a Paint & Sip event, or go dancing with your partner or your best friends. There is life after leaving the office, and we have to set clear boundaries between our work life and our personal life.