Work has always been a trigger for emotional stress, but caretaker careers create a different kind of stress leading to “compassion fatigue”. Also called “vicarious traumatization” or secondary traumatization, “compassion fatigue” is the emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from the consequences of traumatic events (stress.org, 2016).
Compassion fatigue can occur due to exposure on one case or can be due to a “cumulative” level of trauma. There is a key difference between being overly stressed and working a job that involves engaging with another person’s trauma. Secondary or vicarious trauma is when people produce more acute and dramatic symptoms of stress. “The more empathetic and open to others’ pain the workers are, the more likely they will share those victims’ feelings of heartbreak and devastation” (Psychology Today, 2017). When people regularly experience vicarious trauma, they can no longer nurture their inner self.
Compassion fatigue symptoms are normal displays of chronic stress resulting from the caregiving work people choose to do (Compassion Fatigue Awareness, 2017). Other symptoms of compassion fatigue include, but are not limited to: nervous system arousal (sleep disturbance), anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), loss of self-worth, existential despair, isolation and loss of morale (Stress.org, 2017).
Self-care is very important when you are dealing with such big emotional tolls. It is recommended that people try to meditate, pray, practice mindfulness or yoga. Walking in nature, reading spiritual texts, listening to music or taking up a hobby that helps fuel the inner self are also really good ways to help cope with carrying emotional weight.
Compassion fatigue can be helped through the means of alternative medicine as well. Acupuncture is inherently stress reducing, and has a distinctly calming effect on the central nervous system, so regular acupuncture treatments can help to restore peace of mind by simply removing stress in the short term (Acupuncture Today, 2008). According to a study published by the National Institute of Health in 2014, “auricular [ear] acupuncture is an effective intervention for the relief of stress/anxiety in [health care] providers and supports heightened capacity for caring”.
If you feel like you’re struggling from compassion fatigue, we can help with easing the excess stress through means of acupuncture, massage or aromatherapy or a combination of the three. You can reach us by calling our office number: 541-505-7427 to schedule an appointment over the phone or use the online scheduler, found here: https://erinward.drchrono.com/scheduling/offices/153576.