The Webster definition of compassion fatigue is "the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those that care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time".
Symptoms of compassion fatigue can include (but are not limited to) dissociation, anger, anxiety, sleep disturbances, nightmares, feeling powerless, nausea, headaches, etc.( Babbel, 2012). Some symptoms can even mirror those of the clients that you serve. If a client complains about a pain in their side, some have reported that they can feel that same pain.
So, what steps can we do to combat compassion fatigue?
According to Dr. Babbel, people who have a more positive attitude about life, possess a sense of humor and self confidence seem to experience compassion fatigue a lot less than those who don't (2012). Support from your family, friends, coworkers and supervisors are also important. Take time for yourself throughout the day; meditate, go for a walk or listen to some music. Use that vacation time that you have worked hard to earn, that's what it is there for!
If you think you possess compassion fatigue this page has a short assessment tool that will allow you to gauge your level. Overcoming Compassion Fatigue - Family Practice Management
Compassion fatigue can lead to burnout if it is not dealt within a timely fashion. Don't let this happen, nip it in the bud before it becomes too much and you burnout completely.
Babbel, S. (July 4, 2012). Compassion Fatigue: Bodily Symptoms of Empathy. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201207/compassion-fatigue
Pfifferling, J.H. & Gilley, K. (April, 2000). Overcoming Compassion Fatigue. Family Practice Management. Retrieved from http://www.aafp.org/fpm/2000/0400/p39.html
Have a great week!