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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Are You Suffering from Compassion Fatigue?

'Bee on Clover' photography by Sean Royce
"How doth the little busy bee improve each shining hour, and gather honey all the day from every opening flower." Isaac Watts
Are You a Worker Bee Tirelessly Working for the Good of Others? 
  • Do you sometimes feel like just another unappreciated worker bee flying through your day accomplishing a lot that nobody notices?
  • Perhaps after a lifetime of meeting the needs of others to the exclusion of your own you're exhausted--and now you're on the edge of giving up everything to retire into solitude.
How doth the little busy bee improve each shining hour? Not to be overly dramatic, but she lives fast working for others and dies young.
Worker bees exist exclusively to support the colony. These selfless, industrious beings make the world a sweeter place for others through their dedication to supporting and nourishing the whole hive. While admirable, it's just not sustainable for long.
Like that honey bee, you may be a selfless being dedicated to the good of all who--up until recently--tirelessly put the care and needs of others before your own self-care and needs. 
While this makes you a honey of a human-being, without balancing your own self-care with the care of others, its simply not sustainable.
Failing to take care of you while always meeting the needs of others leads to compassion fatigue--a condition that caregivers of people and animals are highly susceptible to--demonstrating the classic signs of chronic stress or burnout.
"Studies confirm that caregivers play host to a high level of compassion fatigue. Day in, day out, workers struggle to function in caregiving environments that constantly present heart wrenching, emotional challenges. Affecting positive change in society, a mission so vital to those passionate about caring for others, is perceived as elusive, if not impossible. This painful reality, coupled with first-hand knowledge of society's flagrant disregard for the safety and well-being of the feeble and frail, takes its toll on everyone from full time employees to part time volunteers."
 According to Traumatologist Eric Gentry, "People who are attracted to caregiving often enter the field already compassion fatigued. A strong identification with helpless, suffering, or traumatized people or animals is possibly the motive."
Are You Suffering from Compassion Fatigue?
If you think you are suffering from compassion fatigue--you probably are--say the experts at the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project--and your path back to health begins with one small step--awareness--and continues through engaging in self-care activities.
What are common signs to look for?
  • Apathy
  • Isolation
  • Bottled up Emotions
  • Substance Abuse
  • Poor Self-Care
  • Chronic Physical Ailments--GI upset, reoccurring colds
  • Sad--no longer find activities pleasurable
Just Bee, painting by Lee Bryant, all rights reserved
 From Burnout to Balance and Uplifted Spirit
"Seeing only what is fair, sipping only what is sweet--leave the chaff, and take the wheat." Ralph Waldo Emerson, 'The Humble-Bee'
If you are a person who is drawn to caring for others--whether humans or animals--you will never short change others--but you will short change yourself. As you're told in airplanes, in the event of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first before you help someone else.
To put balance back into your life you must put yourself first--then regularly and frequently participate in activities with the sole purpose of uplifting, enhancing or entertaining you. These activities should NOT be for other's edification.
Sit quiet.
Bee idle. Bee Still.
Read a book.
Write in a Journal.
Take Photographs.
Take a trip.
Sit by the beach.
Take a nap.
Take a walk.
Set boundaries.
Say No.
Choose what you say YES to.
Ask for other's help.
Self-Assessments from the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project
Would you like to assess yourself to see where you are at this time? Below are links to three self assessments. If you feel you need help recovering from compassion fatigue, seek out a professional who can guide you.

"His labor is a chant, His idleness a tune; Oh, for a bee's experience of clovers and of noon!" Emily Dickinson

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 For more than 30 years, Susan Meyerott has been helping people lighten up and step over invisible barriers to change one step at a time. She speaks to your heart, puts you at ease, and makes changing easier than ever before.

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