The pandemic, George Floyd’s public murder, our country trying to control the reproductive rights of women, constant mass shootings that our legislators are turning a blind eye to, a woman walking into a Chili’s restaurant and murdering another woman, over 20 years of exposure to violence and suffering as a criminal defense attorney. All of this negativity has taken a toll on me and forced me into a state of public hypervigilance and mental numbness. I even fear that my compassion levels have been greatly diminished.
Is there anyone out there that can relate? Well, it might be that we are suffering from compassion fatigue.
What is compassion fatigue
In the Merriam Webster Dictionary, compassion fatigue is defined as
apathy or indifference toward the suffering of others as the result of overexposure to tragic news stories and images and the subsequent appeals for assistance
According to the chief of psychology for the University of Vermont Health Network, compassion fatigue is
a biological and physiological response where you are so exhausted—physically, emotionally, psychologically—that you no longer have the personal reserve to feel for other people.
What are the symptoms of compassion fatigue
According to a Banner Health article I recently read, some of the symptoms of compassion fatigue are:
- Feeling exhausted physically and psychologically
- Feeling helpless, hopeless or powerless
- Feeling irritable, angry, sad, or numb
- A sense of being detached or having decreased pleasure in activities
- Ruminating about the suffering of others and feeling anger towards the events or people causing the suffering
- Blaming yourself and having thoughts of not having done enough to help the people who are suffering
- A decreased sense of personal and professional accomplishment
- A change in your worldview or spirituality
- Physical symptoms including sleep and appetite disturbances, nausea, and dizziness
What you can do to avoid compassion fatigue
- Talk to a mental health professional.
- Practice self-care
- exercise regularly
- eat healthy
- get enough sleep
- interact with other humans
- do whatever brings you joy! I binge watch HGTV or escape from reality with a good book :-).
- Do your very best to take time off from your professional life so that you can replenish and rejuvenate.
- Avoid information overload. I rarely watch the news anymore because I realized it was making me feel worse.
- Practicing gratitude and being in the present moment.
- Understanding that suffering and pain is part of our experience as humans and sometimes there is absolutely nothing you can do to avoid suffering and pain.
Whatever you do, do not ignore it!