Open Heartedness and Compassion Fatigue
Compassion Fatigue can happen when our ability to empathize and stay open hearted takes on too much stress and trauma. Caring for and about others can deplete our mental, emotional, and physical resources, and compassion fatigue is what happens when those resources begin to bottom out. Self-care is an effective way to prevent compassion fatigue and to help come back into a place of open heartedness.
The first step to preventing compassion fatigue is an awareness of the signs and symptoms. These include deep exhaustion and reduced feelings of sympathy or empathy, as well as feeling guilty about not wanting to take care of others. Other signs are feeling irritable or anxious, headaches, trouble sleeping, and feeling less fulfilled or satisfied.
It can be useful to think about compassion fatigue on a scale of 0 – 10, especially during times when you are doing more caring work or offering yourself more generously. Checking in with yourself and how you are feeling helps you to recognize signs of emotional exhaustion before you are overly depleted.
You can prevent and treat compassion fatigue through self-care. Bodywork and massage, acupuncture, therapeutic movement classes like yoga, and psychotherapy all help you become less vulnerable to stress. By purposefully shifting your nervous system out of emergency mode and into rest and restore mode, you rebuild your capacity to care for others with generosity and compassion.
Compassion Fatigue can happen to anyone, and it can be easy to forget to care for yourself when you are focused on caring for others. Taking the time to bring awareness to how you are feeling and dedicating time to a practice of self-care can bring ease to the process of keeping an open heart.