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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

Could You Have Compassion Fatigue?

Last weekend I spent a good part of Saturday in Waco, Texas talking to heroes. I was asked to spend time with them because they are at great risk for what we call "Compassion Fatigue."

While they don't wear capes or have an "S" on their chests, I believe they have hearts like no other. Over 100 foster parents with the Methodist Children's Home gathered for their annual meeting and awards ceremony. I call them heroes because they provide a stable home environment to kids in crisis who need their love and affection. They change lives and inspire families to do right by their children. They are exposed to domestic trauma and they can't help but get involved emotionally.

If you work in patient care, as a financial advisor, with the court system, or you manage other people who come to you needing support, then you are likely to experience the emotional pain of others every day. People who use empathy in their daily work are at risk of having the symptoms of burnout affect their professional and personal life in severe ways.

When you listen to stories of fear, pain and suffering of others you can easily leave the Smart Zone and suffer from 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 can seem like nothing is fun anymore and you can feel burned out. If you would like to see me discuss ways to add happiness to your life, click here to see one of my FOX 4 appearances.

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.

  • Click here for a longer checklist.

Who is vulnerable for experiencing Compassion Fatigue?

  • Those with empathy skills as primary in their job.

  • Those who work with others regarding highly personal issues such as medical treatment, financial or legal matters, mental health, etc.

  • Those who have themselves experienced traumatic events.

  • Those with unresolved trauma.

  • Those who deal with trauma in children.

  • Those who have underdeveloped Emotional Intelligence.

What are Smart Moves to prevent Compassion Fatigue?

  • Keep an engaged workforce.

  • Provide a supportive work environment.

  • Improve training.

  • Handle on-the-job victimization.

  • Increase Emotional Intelligence & use it productively.

What are Smart Moves to cope with Compassion Fatigue?

  • Increase Emotional Intelligence.

  • Identify disrupted schemas/beliefs about your job.

  • Maintain a personal life even if you don't feel like it.

  • Use personal psychotherapy.

  • Identify healing activities such as exercising, reading or calling friends.

  • Tend to your spiritual needs.

  • Arrange for personal supervision/accountability.

  • Develop professional connections.

  • Develop a balanced work life.

  • Remain aware of your goals.

  • Modify your physical setting or work space.

  • Arrange for adequate resources to do your job.

  • Create an atmosphere of respect.

Thank you again to the fine folks at Methodist Children's Home and to Jennifer Gregory for inviting me to Waco after seeing me present at a previous conference in San Antonio. You are changing children's lives. Take care of yourselves so you can keep it up as heroes to those kids.

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