How to Overcome Compassion Fatigue
You shut your office door, glancing at your watch. You have ten minutes until your next meeting. Exhaling a heavy sigh, you wonder how you’ll have the energy to train a group of new employees. You used to love your job as a human resource manager. You felt energized after a day of interviews, meeting new people, and deciphering their best place in your company. You looked forward to the days when you got to train new employees—you love this company and wanted the men and women you worked with to appreciate it as much as you did. You were grateful for all the opportunities to hear from employees, help them solve problems, and offer support and advice. If you’re being honest, you got a little thrill from putting out fires, and you often felt a rush of pride for your work and the compliments you received for being trustworthy, empathetic, and a good listener. You’ve tried to pinpoint when it all changed, but you can’t quite figure it out. You just know there isn’t any excitement about your job anymore. And it’s not just the tasks you don’t enjoy—it’s the people. People no longer energize you; they drain you. You feel depleted after a long day filled with conversations, and if you’re being honest, you don’t care about what anyone has to say. You’re going through the motions, but your heart just isn’t it.
If you resonate with this, you may be experiencing compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is a type of burnout that leaves you feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted. You may experience this after a season that feels especially demanding or when you carry the emotional load of others for too long. This is common in the HR profession when one’s job is dedicated to serving others. HR professionals who feel angry, irritable, less joyful, hopeless, or constantly exhausted may have compassion fatigue. This type of burnout also manifests itself in low self-esteem, workaholism, a diminished sense of accomplishment, or an inability to retain empathy and objectivity. The good news is you don’t have to feel stuck. You can overcome compassion fatigue if you’re willing to make a few adjustments and prioritize your needs.
What To Do
There are several practices you can include in your life to beat compassion fatigue and rediscover joy and empathy.
- Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness teaches you to breathe deeply, focus on positive thoughts, and let go of negativity. When you feel disconnected or angry, practice mindfulness to help reset your emotions.
- Prioritize Alone Time: Find something you enjoy doing to reestablish passion and joy. It may sound selfish or contradictory, but the more overwhelmed you feel, the more important it is to take time away. Go on vacation, take a long weekend, and allow yourself space and time to rest.
- Adjust Your Diet: One of the first ways to regain control over out-of-control emotions or a depressive mindset is to eat healthy foods. Cut out the sugar and junk food and limit alcohol intake and caffeine. These kinds of food and drink often lead to drastic “crashes” and prevent you from thinking clearly and feeling energized.
- Get Exercise: The last thing you want to do when you feel exhausted is to expend physical energy, but exercise releases endorphins, clears your mind, and restores your energy. You may also discover a new hobby, meet a new friend, or even have a revelation in the process.
- Connect with Loved Ones: During times of stress and overwhelm, we often neglect our personal relationships to work longer, harder hours or retreat at the end of the day. But prioritizing conversation and quality time with your friends and family will recharge your batteries faster than anything else. When you feel drained at work, let people you love fill you back up.
What Not to Do:
When you feel mentally and emotionally exhausted, there are several natural habits you’ll want to fall into that are actually harmful. Steer clear of these tendencies and seek remedies that will benefit you–not create more issues.
- Blame Others: In moments of overwhelm, it’s easy to look outward and cast blame. We can blame the systems and processes, the hours we put in, the demands others place on us, and the difficulties and challenges we face. However, doing this will only distract and prevent you from experiencing the mental and emotional healing you desire.
- Complain with Colleagues: Misery loves company, doesn’t it? It’s natural to want to vent to your colleagues, share work frustrations, and find camaraderie in the problems you experience. But this is not helpful for you or your co-workers. It only breeds negativity and leads you to feel exhausted and frustrated. Instead, try to find something positive to converse about or take a walk outside during breaks.
- Make Drastic Decisions: While experiencing compassion fatigue, do not make big decisions like quitting your job, getting a divorce, having an affair, or buying a new car. Lavish spending and unhealthy relationships will only lead to more problems down the line. It’s not wise to make drastic life-altering decisions from a sense of depletion. Instead, wait until your mind is clear and able to see the bigger picture as well as analyze the cost of your choices.
- Try a Quick Fix: Under emotional distress, many people turn to alcohol, drugs, sex, or other addictive behaviors to disengage from their problems. Hoping to find solace, comfort, distraction, or pain relief, you may attempt to participate in a quick fix. However, this only complicates your situation and prevents you from addressing the real issue.
- Neglect Your Own Needs: If you’re feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted, you might continue working at the same pace or even working longer hours. You may skip out on your hobbies or time with friends and family. You may substitute cooking healthy meals for grabbing fast food instead. But all these tendencies leave you feeling more tired and overwhelmed. Now is not the time to neglect your needs, but to prioritize them and can provide you with the rejuvenation and clarity you long for.
Compassion fatigue is a very real, normal experience for many HR professionals. But it is not an indicator that you’ve lost your passion or ability to do your job well. Instead, it reveals that you need to make a few adjustments in your life. To keep doing a job that you love for as long as you can, make necessary changes to overcome compassion fatigue. Contact us at Trinity Training and Development to learn more about our training programs that will help your employees thrive for years to come.