Self-Care to Reduce Compassion Fatigue
First let’s begin with what some people do to counteract the stressors of living in a hurried,“over-technologized” world. Technically, “technologize” is not a popularly accepted word, but it is a sad reality. We live in a time when texting while driving may become the new addiction-based cause for many, many deaths. This addiction is so strong people do it in situations that could case their injury or death, or the injury or death of others. Sound familiar! It should. Cellphone “abuse” is not so different from the plans of cigarette producers to “hook” us on something we will pay for during many years. So here is a partial list of what people tend to do when faced with severe stressors.
What people tend to do that does NOT improve their stress reactivity long-term:
- “Smoke and Coke” – a phrase referring to smoking nicotine and drinking sugary soft-drinks when you cannot cope well and feel dragged down with your stressful life and want to feel stimulated.
- Of course there is always excessive alcohol and/or drug use as self-medication.
- Sleeping – too little or too much, including late onset and too early awakening.
- Eating – too little or too much, and may include binging and purging.
- Hoarding for whatever security it brings.
- Obsessive compulsive behaviors – as behaviors for security actions to make us feel better.
- Being aggressive when it is not necessary to defend yourself.
- Insulating yourself from contact with others.
- Living under a “victimhood” self-identification. This can change everything!
- Participating in self-harming behaviors to activate neurologic, chemical and hormonal changes in your brain and body.
- Engagement in unsafe sexual activities to feel “excitement” and/or “loved.”
- Spending too much time online or on my “I-Smart” phone. The phone becomes your life!
- Doing too much exercise, especially when injuries occur.
- Being a person of uncontrollable empathy – a clear boundary issue that wares you out.
- Making your job too much of your life – workaholism or compensation for poor self-esteem?
- Making do with professional, work stagnation.
- Remaining stuck in impaired practices – the most common one being emotional dysregulation.
What people can do that does improve stress reactivity and may even increase joy in life:
- Taking brief breaks from the “grind” of work.
- Recognizing and contemplating personal gratitude for what you DO have.
- Noticing and correcting unhelpful thoughts, emotions, behaviors and communications.
- Learning to hold a positive, optimistic mindset and attitude.
- Liberating yourself from “stuckness” in anxiety, depression, addictions, and trauma. This most often requires professional help and/or self-help.
- Cutting way back on your online time. Researchers suggest anything beyond 3-4 hours/day is a habitual pattern. What do our jobs, schools and parents contribute to the habitual tendencies of habit-forming digital/electronic devices?
- Ignoring FOMO!
- Spending time reading, writing, journaling about helpful things.
- Spending time listening and/or playing music.
- Spending time dancing and/or doing regular exercise.
- Spending time doing regular practice of meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, mindful walking.
- Petting your dog or cat – or horse. Looking into their eyes when they allow it.
- Spending time walking in nature.
- Learning to give/get social-emotional support.
- Learning to leave work at work – learn to build emotional boundaries.
- Practice limit-setting regarding your boundaries and what you do to help others.
- Making a firm commitment to improve your wellness.
- Taking part in constructive self-reflection.
- Paying more attention to positives ( natural for the brain to do the opposite).
- Helpful nutrition, sleep and exercise practices.
- Learn to play more; learn to be active in creative expression.
- Participating in regular spiritual practices.
- Spending more quality time with loved ones and good friends when helpful.
- Leaving some time to just be in quiet, silent solitude.
- Seeking professional help as soon as you “feel” you MAY need it, or when others who care about you “think” you need it.
You will notice that the helpful list is longer than the unhelpful list. However, the unhelpful behaviors are often more automatic, and the helpful behaviors REQUIRE considerable effort to carry out. Your wellness must be a priority for you.
For more information refer to Bray, B. (2019). Counselors as human beings not superheroes. Counseling Today (October, 2019), 18-25
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness
New Edition of Mindful Happiness in Production…Coming soon!