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The many faces of Compassion Fatigue

“I feel like I’m on auto pilot – unconsciously going through the motions of my work and my life”.

“I have nothing left to give when I come home to my family. I am always rushing, I am always falling short and I loose my temper so easily and then spend the rest of the night feeling guilty”.

“I want to start my own business but I’m so burnt out from my current work that I never make the time”.

“I used to love my job but now I keep getting caught up in negative office politics and feel like I’m lost in a toxic workplace”.

“I’ve lost confidence in my ability to help others and have lost hope in people’s ability to change”.

“I hate my job but feel trapped and too exhausted to try anything new”.

“How can I help others if I feel so lost myself”

If you recognize yourself in any of the statements above you may be suffering from complications of burnout, which are a result of unrelenting and continual stress. If you are in the helping professions you may have the added dimension of compassion fatigue and/or vicarious trauma.

We spend a great deal of our time at work. Once you include commuting time, and the proliferation of electronic means of contact, such as blackberry’s, pagers, cell phones, email, we rarely “turn off” our work mode and consequently have much less down time.

Speaking of down time, we even work while on vacation. While the numbers vary, as many as 1 in 2 workers check their work voice mail and email while on vacation. Lay offs, downsizing, fewer federal dollars, all add up to more work being done by fewer people. Nearly 1 in 3 Canadians have reported most workdays to be “quite” or “extremely stressful”. MOST workdays! So what does that mean?

Work related stress, career strain, work/life imbalance, compassion fatigue, occupational hazards, occupational pressures, moral distress, horizontal violence (term used to describe the kind of negative treatment at the hands of co-workers), vicarious trauma, burnout; no matter what you call it there are serious side effects if left untreated. Chronic stress leads to physical, emotional and psychological symptoms.

I work with my clients to reduce current stress inputs, to implement realistic stress relief strategies and to enhance their stress resiliency in order to make them more resistant to future occurrences of burnout. The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it. ~Attributed to both Jim Goodwin and Sydney J. Harris

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