Compassion Fatigue: How We Caregivers Can Refresh

It’s happened to all of us. We spend so much of our mental and emotional bandwidth taking care of others that we burn out. Energy is low. We are irritable and distracted. We are running on fumes…or maybe not running at all.

As parents and caregivers, we all experience compassion fatigue.

Didn’t know there was a term for it, did you? It’s actually a thing, worthy of a #.

But without a total life-overhaul, what can we do about all of the demands on us?
The stressors of life will inevitably come at us, and while we may have some influence, we don’t really have control over situations, or other people. So how can we increase our capacity to take care of our loved ones without loosing our minds in the process?

We HAVE TO take care of ourselves.

I know, I know. There are a million reasons why this is hard. You have children, spouses, partners, significant others, friends, pets, parents, siblings, coworkers, neighbors and other people who look to you for support. You also have a home, laundry, dishes, meals, traffic, errands and some mechanism that needs repair.

But…those things don’t get done well when you are at your wit’s end. Or maybe they get done, but after checking everything off the to-do list, you are spent and therefore not able to really engage with your family. You just want to be c-h-e-c-k-e-d out.

Years ago, I heard somewhere that the most harmful emotion a person can feel is powerless. I have to agree.

So while you may feel powerless in the day-to-day demands of your life as a parent, there are options for renewal. Here are three things for righting your ship of well-being:

  • Make a list of things you find healing and rewarding. Don’t use your practicality filter here! Brain-dump all of your ideas, even if they are not logical. Just write it. Then walk away for a few hours.
  • Later, revisit your list and pick one or two things you can do in the next week. These can be simple things, like taking 10 minutes to flip through a magazine that you like, or taking an hour to hop into your favorite spin class or get that pedicure that you know you need. I’ve even found solace in watching a few minutes of The Food Network. It’s all about getting creative within your life’s constraints.
  • Pick 1-2 things you can do in the next 3-6 months. These can be simple things, similar to the refreshers you selected above, or more elaborate refueling activities. (Mediterranean cruise, anyone?)

It’s not about controlling the outside circumstances. We all need to give that up ASAP. It’s about finding renewal where we can so that we can be our best selves as parents, and as people.

Ask Heather

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