Providing care for others is a challenging endeavor. Nurses endeavor day and night to ensure patients receive attentive care and recover faster. They have a more rigorous work schedule than doctors. Many nurses commit to double shifts and push themselves to extremes, and it is not a random or unexpected emergency. They continue the same routine, sparing little time to recuperate. But such a tight schedule and upsetting experiences manifest into compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue is the emotional and psychological cost of sympathizing with others, caring for them, and relieving their pains. It is secondhand or indirect stress, shock, or trauma from empathizing with others. It is similar to burnout and predominant in healthcare workers. Since nurses immerse themselves in patients’ matters, they cannot help sway with similar emotional and psychological traumas. Compassion fatigue is a concerning issue as it leads to various physical and mental health issues in care providers. So, it’s imperative to learn to manage it before things worsen.
The following sections explore some tips to understand and manage compassion fatigue healthily.
- Assume a healthy side hustle
Professional duties have a time limit, so learn to finish your work on a predefined schedule. A barrier between work and life is vital to fulfilling your commitments satisfactorily. So, once you return home, forget about your work for the time being. A side hustle or hobbies can help you in this case. For instance, journaling, leisure reading, sketching, or playing a musical instrument can help divert your focus from needless worries.
Even better, you can pursue higher education to deviate your mind from work and still capitalize on your free time. For this purpose, eLearning is the route to education you should consider since it allows you to attend lectures from anywhere and anytime. Pursuing nursing programs online will also prove worthwhile for your career advancement prospects.
- Attend to fatigue symptoms
The best way to deal with a problem is to understand it. You must know when you feel overwhelmed beyond your capacity, as compassion fatigue is not only feeling indifferent to your patients. It can lead to more concerning health issues if you ignore early indications.
A range of negative emotions like skepticism, annoyance, agitation, cynicism, anger, resentfulness, and intolerance replace sympathetic feelings toward patients. One is less sensitive, compassionate, and helpful for patients when they cannot give or take anymore. And at times, one also feels helpless, isolated, and detached from the surroundings and breakdowns in anguish. These emotions disturb the hormonal equilibrium and promote long-term health issue, as cortisol level stays high when you are under constant stress. As a result, you are prone to diabetes, obesity, immune system dysfunction, cardiovascular ailments, and gastrointestinal problems in the long run.
Many healthcare workers also develop psychological health complications, such as personality disorders, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, hypochondria, and addiction.
- Do not commit beyond capacity
Compassion fatigue is similar to burnout. If you commit to more than you can deliver, you are bound to overwhelm yourself. Working in a healthcare facility requires absolute commitment and attention. If you take more work than your capacity, physical and mental exhaustion creates many complications, and compassion fatigue is one.
So, pay attention to your health and well-being while committing to professional responsibilities. Working overtime or in multiple shifts is unrealistic if you think from the perspective of your and your patient’s health and safety. No one can adjust to such a tight schedule in the long run without causing trouble for themselves and their patients. That is why work burden leads to physical, mental, and emotional breakdowns in healthcare workers.
- Utilize breaks
Healthcare jobs are fatiguing, but your approach can make things more challenging. If you immerse in day-to-day work to the point of forgetting about lunch and refreshment breaks, you cannot get extra time to recharge yourself. A day or two would make sense. But that is not the case when you have full-time commitments. As a result, emotional, physical, and psychological burnout is inevitable when you stretch yourself without sufficient time to relax and recuperate from routine wear and tear.
So, learn to sideline your work during breaks and shed your worries before you feel nauseating. Take intermittent breaks and recharge yourself when your emotions spiral. Talk to your colleagues and the management if your work schedule is taking a toll on your well-being. Switch your duty schedule whenever necessary, and allow yourself to relax at home.
- Maintain a healthy work-life schedule
Develop a healthy routine to adjust everything from work to personal life commitments, self-care, sleep, and exercise. Sleep and exercise enhance resilience and help overcome emotional, psychological, and physical challenges. Physical activities kick off happy hormones like endorphins that counter stress and emotional ups and downs.
If you make exercise a habit, you are less likely to give in to emotional and psychological triggers. Only a few minutes of stretching and yoga exercises at home can help you stay fit and resilient. The same goes for quality sleep. It is a natural and free-of-cost mechanism to deal with emotional, psychological, and physical burdens. Sleep allows your system to recover from wear and tear and reestablish chemical equilibrium.
- Share with family members
Keeping things to yourself and social isolation will increase your emotional and mental burden. You may be capable of dealing with your professional ups and downs, but sometimes emotional support is necessary.
So, do not hesitate to share your concerns with your loved ones. It is okay to ramble about and speak your heart out. How will you vent out otherwise? Sharing with your family members may help identify a problem timely or understand a concern from a different perspective. Their words may also help you brace up and talk to your employers if work is taking a toll on your health.
- Get help from a healthcare expert
Personal needs are less vital and pressing than work for many healthcare workers. But no matter how much you care for your patients and endeavor to help them, your health should come first. Issues like emotional and psychological burnout and compassion fatigue surface when you put aside your well-being. But compassion fatigue is a concerning issue, unlike how people overlook it. You cannot serve your patients if you are on the verge of a breakdown.
Step back and recuperate before you collapse. Reach out to a healthcare practitioner to recover from emotional and psychological traumas and strengthen your resilience. It may seem a needless expense, but early help is vital to prevent chronic and irreversible complications.
Experiencing compassion fatigue does not mean you lack the commitment to your professional and moral responsibilities. It means you need time for yourself before you give more, as you are also responsible for your needs. Acknowledge your emotional, physical, and psychological needs and treat yourself well. Quality patient care is only possible if you fulfill your responsibilities, not at a cost to your health and well-being. Thus, learn not to trade off your well-being and safety for professional commitments. Most importantly, work-life balance is crucial to satisfy all responsibilities safely.