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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

Stick a Fork in Me – I’m Done!

Many of you know my Director of Client Relations, Zan Jones. Zan has a good friend who just went through her second round of chemo. Thankfully she is doing as well as possible. I can see the pain on Zan's face when she gives me updates about her friend. Do you have friends or family going through tough times - like a health crisis or financial difficulty? If so, you may be empathizing so much that you risk taking on the pain and suffering that your friends feel.

If you work in patient care, social services, the court system or law enforcement, then you likely experience the pain and suffering of others every day. People who use empathy in their work daily are at risk of having the effects of burnout affect their professional and personal life.

When we listen to stories of fear, pain and suffering of others we likely can leave the Smart Zone due to what is sometimes referred to Compassion Fatigue. Compassion Fatigue is also thought of as Secondary Post Traumatic Stress. Once Compassion Fatigue sets in, the pain of others takes up your mental energy and eventually everything in your life can go dull. It could seem like nothing is fun anymore and you would feel burned out. If you'd like to see me discuss ways to add happiness to your life, click here to see my FOX 4 appearance from last week.

How do you know if you are suffering from Compassion Fatigue?

  • Mistakes go up and job performance goes down

  • You can't stop thinking about your job or the problems of others.

  • Trouble sleeping.

  • General feeling of weariness.

  • You don't feel like doing anything - you feel blah.

  • You feel less satisfied, less energetic and less efficient.

Use these Smart Moves to cope with Compassion Fatigue:

  • Increase your EQ (Emotional Intelligence): EQ is the ability to use your emotions effectively and understand the emotions of others. Recognizing how others perceive you and the affect you have on others will help you identify burn out symptoms early.

  • Exercise: You may feel like you just don't have time to exercise. The body and mind benefits of exercise will make you more productive and are worth every minute. Click here to watch how Dr. Doug Ross (George Clooney) on ER used exercise to cope with compassion fatigue.

  • Maintain a personal life even if you don't feel like it. You may tend to eliminate the very things that will revitalize you like family dinners, eating lunch out, prayer and meditation and time with friends. Spend time with supportive people.

  • Have a sense of humor. People in stressful jobs, like 911 operators, may often have a wicked sense of humor - but it's still a sense of humor. When people who work with them recognize they are joking around less then it's a sign it's time for a break. Just for fun, watch this funny "stupid pet trick" on the Late Show with David Letterman.

  • Set limits between work and home activities. Easier said than done, I know. Don't play nurse or therapist in personal relationships.

  • Broaden your network. Get involved in professional or social organizations where like-minded people meet and discuss events and mutual problems. I recently spoke at a Child Abuse Awareness Conference put on by CITY House (Collin Intervention to Youth, Inc.) Click here to find out how you or your company can be recognized while helping youth in crisis.

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