Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Compassion Fatigue

I was reading an article in Oprah magazine (there are good articles in it, I swear!) about Compassion Fatigue that I found very interesting.  Basically, it is the term that doctors have given to what happens to some people who are chronic caregivers.  It is different from burn out and has similar symptoms to PTSD.  In fact, another name for it is Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder.  My reaction when I read this was "of course this happens."  I have experienced it myself (and think that I am finally coming out of a bout right now) and have seen other people experience it.  That being said, there was something that struck me about having a label to give to it and some sort of "official" recognition that this exists.

One thing that I have found many caregivers, including myself, experience is guilt.  I sometimes feel guilty because I am worn out, stressed, exhausted, etc.  As I type this, I realize how silly that sounds, but it is something that I do experience.  Much more frequently than I would like to admit.  

So, what can I do with this new "awareness"?  I guess it is just a reminder of what I already know--I need to make it a point to take care of myself too.  CF (and other stressors) are difficult.  There is no way of getting around that.  And in order to do my best at helping Gess through these things, I need to be healthy and sane.

The question is, how to do this?  As a perpetual "doer" I do find it difficult at times to identify my needs and know of things that I can do to "take care" of myself.  I used to be so bad that Gess would draw me a bath, light candles, and then literally lock me in the bathroom with instructions to relax until he let me out! (I had this habit of taking baths to relax, only to be ready to get out by the time the tub filled all the way!).

The Oprah article has the following recommendations:

• Mindfulness meditation: It's been shown to decrease depression and anxiety while boosting empathy.Oprah.com: Try these meditation exercises

• Keeping a journal: Research suggests that reflective writing helps prevent compassion fatigue.

• A daily act of self-centering: Set an alarm for noon and take four deep breaths; or when you wash your hands, sink into the experience, feeling the sensation of the water on your skin while noting, "I am worthy of my own time."

• Staying connected to the outside world with at least a phone call every day. Better yet, get outside, even just to take a walk.

• And don't be afraid to ask for help.


I am going to make it a point to try to find new ways to take care of myself and to actually practice  the ones that I know work.  I also encourage all of you out there in blogger-land to do the same and let me know what you find that works!!

Oh, I also found a Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project--looks like a good resource, so I will check it out!

1 comment:

jordysmom said...

Boy do I get this one! I know in my logical mind that I need to take a little time for myself, but it's hard for me to do without feeling guilty or selfish.

I always tell myself that my son has it so much worse, so I just need to suck it up and deal with it.
I really need to work on that.