Compassion fatigue and self-care


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“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of one’s self. We must be purposely kind and generous, or we miss the best part of life’s existence. The heart that goes out to itself gets large and full of joy. This is a great secret of the inner life. We do ourselves most good by doing something for others”.

Horace Mann (1796 – 1859)

American writer.

I think it is true that kindness and empathy make the world go around. Compassion for other beings is an excellent way of helping yourself through helping others, though a lot of people don’t realise that compassion needs an energy source.

A lot of social workers, paramedics, and people in general experience what is known as ‘compassion fatigue’, meaning an increased level of apathy towards the vulnerable and those who are suffering.

When these symptoms are felt, many misdiagnose it as just being a “bad person”, and they don’t realise the actual cause of said symptoms.

Self-care is the best medicine for compassion-fatigue. I compiled a list here to give some of my favourite self-care methods. I’m not going to preach what you should and shouldn’t do, these are mere suggestions. As with life, what you do is entirely up to you.

  • Be honest with yourself about how you feel. Your feelings won’t simply go away if you ignore it. Embrace how you feel. If you’re feeling good, great! If you’re feeling sad, then that is okay too;
  • Practice mindfulness (find methods in the ‘read more’ section below);
  • Take time out. You don’t owe your time to anyone. Obviously don’t completely drop out of society – that will only worry people;
  • Learn to cook;
  • Try doing one small act of kindness a day. It doesn’t matter how big or small that action is – it could be as little as holding a door out for someone;
  • Go for a jog;
  • Don’t be afraid to spend some time alone;
  • Listen to your favourite happy music;
  • Seek help if you need it. There are people out there who want to listen to you. Never be afraid to ask for it;
  • Surround yourself with people who love and care for you;
  • Wake up early and watch the sunrise;
  • Re-read your favourite book or re-watch your favourite film;
  • Go to bed earlier than you usually would, and try to get at least 8hrs sleep;
  • Eat something healthy!
  • Phone your loved ones, tell them how you’re doing, and remind them (and yourself) how much they mean to you.

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