Before embarking on this column, I have to be fully transparent by saying that I know the dangers of compassion fatigue personally.
Just like grief, in many ways, compassion fatigue is something experienced by many, and yet, most people refuse to acknowledge it, choosing to ignore it instead.
This eventually becomes a major problem because the weight of carrying other people’s problems does indeed get heavy, and learning how to address proper coping skills becomes essential in making sure that mental health needs are properly being addressed.
Case in point. Do you know who some of the worst offenders are in “stuffing” their emotions and feelings? Yes, that’s right, those in the “helping” field. This includes individuals such as first responders, DHR workers, case managers, ministers, counselors and social workers.
The list is certainly longer than that, but most of them will admit that because of the nature of their jobs, they are required to “bear the weight” because they have the unique ability to do so. And because “walking alongside others” is considered a privilege and an honor.
The problem only becomes worrisome when individuals are unable to find appropriate outlets to address their feelings and emotions. “Stuffing” becomes a simple fix to a present problem. However it doesn’t simply go away, and, in fact, continues to build into something that could potentially become explosive and dangerous to an individual’s mental health and wellness.
In meeting with those who are employed in the EMS, police and fire/rescue fields, they often talk about the buildup of “pressure” that they feel within themselves, and they struggle with trying to cope with those emotions and not take them home to their families.
However, human nature often intercedes on our behalf and the body and mind eventually “hits a wall.” And there is a sudden awareness that exhaustion has settled in and taken the body prisoner.
Let me be the first to say that there is absolutely no guilt or shame in admitting that you need to rest. Everyone likes to think that they are superhuman and can go 100 miles an hour every day, but the fact of the matter is that even superheroes have vices.
No one, and I mean no one, is immune to the stressors of life. We may feel like we have everything “handled” and are fully capable of tackling a million problems at once; however, sometimes our body betrays us and simply begins to evidence signs of “wear and tear.”
To combat this and to make sure that we remain healthy in our workplace and are able to be present doing the things that we love, we must find alternative measures to release emotions and engage in better self-care. Phone a friend, take some time off (Yes, the job will still be there when you get back), spend some time outdoors or even find a counselor who can listen without judgment.
Make no mistake, we need our helpers and those who are able to be present during the most difficult times, but if our helpers keep “helping” and never take the time to “pause” and take care of themselves, how effective will they really be?
Compassion is a gift. A gift we not only give to others, but give to ourselves as well. Pay close attention to warning signs and draw comfort from knowing that fatigue is a real thing and that you are definitely not alone.
So go ahead, set aside and make the time for yourself. It is a wonderful opportunity to rejuvenate your spirit.
Jenny Filush-Glaze is a licensed counselor and owner of Serenity Community Counseling LLC. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.