The mental health monthly blog was developed with the intent to share information regarding mental health topics that are not typically discussed. We hope to inspire personal reflection, increase knowledge of different topics, and increase awareness of support and services available. If anything in the blog sparks your interest or you would like more information, please contact the GMFRC social workers.
This months article:
April Mental Health Blog: Compassion Fatigue
Have you ever felt the overwhelming sense of caring for another person that created stress, anxiety, or depression symptoms in your own life? If so, then you may have experienced symptoms of compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue is the sense of feeling negative tension, anxiety, and/or stress that is caused by wanting to help another person or animal. The majority of us want to help and have a deep sense of wanting to care for others. It’s when that feeling of wanting to help is so overwhelming that we start to have negative symptoms attached to it. It was previously only thought that helping professionals such as doctors, social workers, etc. would have this experience; however, compassion fatigue can be felt by anyone who is in a helping capacity. The symptoms can be tough and overwhelming and can impact every part of life. Once you are aware you may be experiencing compassion fatigue there are many coping strategies you can practice and preventative actions you can put in place to try to prevent it from happening again.
The first step in overcoming anything related to mental wellness is awareness. Becoming aware of the thoughts and emotions you are feeling makes it easier to cope with them and move forward. Common symptoms of compassion fatigue include denial, feeling burdened by the suffering of others, bottling up your emotions, insomnia or sleeping too much, difficulty concentrating, feelings of hopelessness, and loss of pleasure in activities that once caused you joy. Now, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, having these symptoms does not mean you definitely have a problem; however, it can indicate that something isn’t going in the right direction.
So, maybe you are reading and thinking, “yeah I have been feeling really low and I have been bottling up how I am feeling about helping someone”. There are some things you can try on your own. If you do and the symptoms do not improve, then there may be more to the story and it may be best to seek help from a professional.
- You have already started the first step! Becoming knowledgeable on compassion fatigue and aware of the symptoms. Once you are aware of symptoms you can begin to notice those symptoms in your own body. Once you notice how you are feeling it is easier to implement your self-care strategies and boundaries.
- Self-care, self-care, self-care. Once you identify that you are a helper to someone (which is anyone who cares for another human being), it’s critical that you take care of yourself first, before you can effectively care for another human being. Figure out what fills your cup up. What makes you feel like you and do that. If there’s something that is getting in the way of that, then step 3 is next. Whatever it is, it’s not going to be the same from person to person. It may be something physical, it may be emotional; however, it needs to make you feel good and ready to take on the next thing life throws at you.
- Boundaries. I’m not talking about building a fence. I’m talking about personal boundaries that protect you from additional stress. For example, practice saying no when asked to take on another task when your plate is already filled or speak up when your values or beliefs have been compromised.
Now these three steps are not the be all to end all for overcoming compassion fatigue. But they are a beginning to becoming more self-aware, self-compassionate, and at the very least trusting that you are enough.
If you would like to continue exploring self-awareness and finding new coping strategies for enhancing mental wellness, please reach out to the GMFRC. We can help find resources for you either within or outside the centre.
March: Gut Health and Mental Health
February: Effective communication strategies
January: Mens Mental Health
December: Taking care of yourself during the holidays
November 2019: Grief and Remembrance
October 2019: World Mental Health Day
September 2019: Children’s Mental Health
August 2019: Reality of Self-Care
July 2019: Mental Health Stigma: Summertime Edition