Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Compassion Fatigue

My family is suffering from compassion fatigue. I have had a particularly prolific spell of migraines lately and my family has had really tough schedules. My wife's job has recently changed and a promotion means more than twice the work with no additional pay. We are, each of us, sapped by the abundance of events in our lives. I have noticed that my family is especially tired of dealing with my disability. If the migraines will just let up and allow us to have a restful vacation in August, we may be able to recoup our energies and regain our compassionate spirits.

I think the families of those of us in chronic pain, at one time or another, all suffer from compassion fatigue. A time when they can't handle dealing with the problems surrounding them. When they just can't deal with us and our afflictions. Everyone has times when fatigue overwhelms their ability to show compassion for someone else. Times when stress prevents us from giving freely of ourselves.


Compassion fatigue may be easy to spot in hind site, but it is important to take daily steps and make changes that might take the weight from our shoulders. Studies confirm that caregivers play host to a high level of stress and fatigue. Day in, day out, workers or family struggle to function in care giving environments that constantly present emotional challenges.

Dr. Pfifferling, director of the Center for Professional Well-Being in Durham, N.C., specializes in physician stress management. He is also a clinical associate professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He makes the following suggestions for dealing with or preventing fatigue as a care giver. These points are focused on the professional doctor, nurse, or aide, but could apply to all of us as the caregivers in our families.

1.  Spend plenty of quiet time alone. Learning mindfulness meditation is an excellent way to ground yourself in the moment and keep your thoughts from pulling you in different directions. The ability to reconnect with a spiritual source will also help you achieve inner balance and can produce an almost miraculous turnaround, even when your world seems its blackest.


2.  Recharge your batteries daily. Something as simple as committing to eat better and stopping all other activities while eating can have an exponential benefit on both your psyche and your physical body. A regular exercise regimen can reduce stress, help you achieve outer balance and re-energize you for time with family and friends.


3.  Hold one focused, connected and meaningful conversation each day. This will jump start even the most depleted batteries. Time with family and close friends feeds the soul like nothing else and sadly seems to be the first thing to go when time is scarce. 



(For those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's or other totally debilitating disease adult interaction is a must have in order to keep your own sanity ~ Andy)

4Do not to make any major life decisions until you’ve recovered physically, emotionally and spiritually. This is perhaps the most important advice we can give. Don’t quit your job, get a divorce, or spend your money on a lavish trip or a new sports car. It may feel great at the time, but a few days or weeks later you’ll find yourself waking up to the same set of problems. 



(This may be particularly difficult for those of us with a long-term chronic illness, because recovery may not be in sight, but decisions have to be made ~ Andy)

5.  Similarly, blaming others, God, life, administration, staff, colleagues or the “system” will do you no good. Being adversarial will only exhaust you further and prevent the deeper healing that needs to take place.


6. Don’t spend your energy complaining. We also advise that you avoid commiserating with discontented colleagues. You’ve heard the old saying “misery loves company.” It’s easy to fall into the habit of complaining when you’re consumed by compassion fatigue, but it will only make you feel worse. There are other, more constructive environments to share your feelings.


7.  Compassion fatigue can make you vulnerable to addictive behaviors and substance abuse.  We’ve seen many clients try to deal with compassion fatigue by working longer and harder. Others self-medicate with alcohol and prescription drugs. There are a whole host of other addictive behaviors that are used to relieve personal pain. Don’t let yourself abuse work, alcohol or drugs and don’t fall prey to a quick fix. Just as drugs can be addictive and eventually cause a whole different set of problems, the quick fix almost always ends up complicating an already overburdened escalating the downward spiral.



The points given here are for everyone; The caregiver, migraineur, long time or chronic illness sufferer, and the people with too much stress in their lives. We all become fatigued at some point in the battle with our ailment. Each of us should practice these and other techniques to prevent compassion fatigue in our lives.


This post references Ideas and information taken from the following article ~ Compassion Fatigue, from http://www.swvatoday.com .

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