Amanda Rocheleau, MSW, RSW
Counselling & Consulting

14 Bayswater Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario   K1Y 2E4

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What is    Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion fatigue can look different for everyone and can range in severity at different times. It involves a gradual erosion of empathy and energy to care for others when in a helping role for an extended period of time. Other experiences linked to compassion fatigue are vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress and burnout. 

Sometimes the demands of being a caregiver outweigh our own internal abilities to remain resilient while we help others.  We become so preoccupied with the suffering of those we help that it becomes a great emotional burden that affects our own sense of well-being and we simply don't have the energy to care any longer.

​In general, compassion fatigue feels like the cooling embers in a dying fire.

 

Symptoms can be physical, psychological or behavioral and can affect our professional and personal lives:

  • Avoidance of clients or those in need

  • Decreased ability to focus

  • Loss of empathy

  • Insensitivity to emotional material

  • Cynicism

  • Highly emotional

  • Difficulty of separating work and personal life

  • Less tolerance

  • Dread working with certain clients

  • Depression

  • Diminished sense of purpose

  • Increased anxiety

  • Feeling of disconnection and detachment

  • Loss of work enjoyment

  • Lowered functioning in non-professional situations

  • Diminished intimacy with loved ones

  • Loss of hope

  • Irritability or resentfulness

  • Withdrawn or "flat"

  • Weakened immune system

  • Headaches/tensions

  • Exhaustion despite a good night sleep

Source: Compassion Fatigue Workbook, Francoise Matthieu & Dr. Anna Baranowsky

If you think you are experiencing some of these symptoms, then you are not alone.
Let's explore this together and turn your compassion fatigue into compassion satisfaction.

Get in touch.

 

What is    Compassion Satisfaction?

Compassion satisfaction is the opposite of compassion fatigue. It "is about the pleasure you derive from being able to do your work well" (Stamm, 1999). Caregivers often feel a great pleasure in helping others and are innately drawn to a nurturing role. Thus, there is great satisfaction in fulfilling their sense of purpose in the world. Caregivers experience compassion satisfaction when they feel positive about their contributions to their work settings or even the greater good of society.

What is    Burnout?

Burnout is a state of complete emotional, mental and physical exhaustion when a person has been exposed to prolonged stress.  Feeling burned out is like a car running out of fuel.  You can't keep on because you just have nothing left in you to drive you forward.  You fought long and hard to deal with the stress and finally you ran out of strength and motivation to fight it anymore. 

Anyone can experience burnout and in most cases it is related to one's job or primary role in life.  There are many varying factors that can contribute to its onset including excessive workload or responsibilities, lack of personal control over schedule or environment, lack of compensation or appreciation, and lack of leadership or a hostile environment.  In addition to work related factors, a person may also have a lifestyle that increases risk to burnout such as having a poor diet, poor sleep hygiene, few supports, and lack of work-life balance. 

What is    Vicarious Trauma?

Vicarious trauma occurs when an individual is exposed to multiple, impactful and/or repeated trauma information that eventually impacts his or her perception of the world.  Sometimes, exposure to other people's trauma begins to alter core beliefs regarding one's safety, the general nature of humanity, and one's ability to cope with emotional pain.  Sometimes just knowing about someone else's traumatic experience(s) is enough to trigger an increase in anxiety and a powerful stress response similar to if an actual primary traumatic experience had occurred to the individual.  Professionals who work with trauma clients, ER nurses, or therapists are prime examples of people who may experience vicarious trauma. 

 

What is    Caregiver Burden?

Caregiver burden is a common experience among informal caregivers such as unpaid family or friends who are caring for individuals with chronic illness, special needs or an elderly person. Caregivers often experience stress and fatigue as they provide complex care for others often without adequate support and resources.  Their responsibilities as a caregiver can be quite demanding and impact them physically, psychologically and financially. Caregivers frequently report feeling like their whole life revolves around their care-giving causing them to feel depressed, exhausted, anxious and unsatisfied in other areas of their life.

 

What is    Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion is being aware of your own suffering, accepting it, and having a compassionate attitude towards your own personal struggles.

 

Kristin Neff states self-compassion has three main components:

1) Self-Kindness: soothing yourself and speaking to yourself in kindly as you would to a small child who is struggling and is in need of comfort.

2) Common Humanity: Recognizing that everyone has certain inadequacies and personal struggles and yo are not alone in your suffering.

3) Mindfulness: In order to attend to your needs you must first know what they are.  Mindfulness is tuning in to our inner self and observing without judgement what might be happening physically and mentally in the present moment.

What is    Self-Care?
 

There is no single definition of self-care. I like to define it this way: Self-care is the deliberate practice of knowing your needs and desires, taking responsibility for them, and then living your life in a way that honours them. Self-care ultimately is about caring for self which means that any activity can be an act of self-care if the intention is to enhance personal health and wellness.