Starting a career in the caring profession is a noble choice and was once seen as a vocation rather than a job. Whilst this is still true it doesn’t remove the fact that caring jobs are, at the end of the day, jobs. Let’s be honest, everyone performs jobs that cause them to use up hours of the day and leave them with a great deal of stress. The thing is, caring jobs are different from other jobs as they often cause people to go beyond the call of duty and become a caregiver; they take priority over everything else in their lives.
Constant demands on time and emotional commitment are the downsides to working in a care profession. Whilst this is part and parcel of being employed within the caring sector, there’s always a danger that people will become numb and emotionally disconnected. You can lose who you are if you allow work to be your life and, sadly, this often leads to mental illness.
What is compassion fatigue/counselor stress?
Compassion fatigue is an emotional and physical breakdown of the individual; it’s an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, stress, and depression. It’s caused when a caregiver’s job negatively impacts their lives, leaving them feeling emotionally drained and physically exhausted.
They’ve become so overworked by the demands of the job that they begin to believe they can’t make a positive difference anymore. A lot of times you’ll find that caregivers see themselves as failures because they couldn’t ease the suffering or pain of another human being. They become cynical and isolated from others to cope with what they’ve experienced daily.
Caregivers pay a price
When working in a care profession you often have to walk that fine line between being professional and being compassionate. You have to make decisions that mean you can’t always be there for the person you’re caring for, but this is also a reality of working in this sector.
The role also impacts your health as it’s possible to become physically sick from all the effort and it’s common for caregivers to suffer from back pain, shoulder pain, stress, and depression. Studies show that people who work in caring professions are twice as likely to suffer from mental illness; compassion fatigue or counselor stress is particularly high among those who work in the field.
Self-Care Is A Must
If you work within the health or social care sector you must maintain your own mental health whilst looking after others. Day in and day out you see people who are faced with illness and disease, so much so that they can bring down healthcare professionals just by being around them.
You must maintain your own health, it will be one of the ways you can be a positive influence on others. If you do not take care of your own mental health it will affect those around you and they will quickly pick up on how stressed and unhappy you are, this only leads to problems.
Here are some helpful self-care tips:
Learn about Compassion Fatigue
Simply being aware of compassion fatigue and its symptoms can go a long way to alleviating the symptoms. It can be difficult to know how to cope with the problems that arise when working in this field, but understanding the issues will help you to overcome them.
You must educate yourself about the signs of compassion fatigue so that you can recognize it in yourself or others.
Eat a balanced diet
It’s important to eat a balanced diet including plenty of protein, and eating a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids can lower levels of inflammation. Stress increases the level of inflammation in the body which interferes with your immune system and general health. If you have a diet high in inflammatory foods such as red meat, or anything that contains nitrates, sodium, and salt then this will increase your likelihood of experiencing stress-induced illness.
Set a good sleep routine
Caring for others takes a lot of energy and you must take time to rest. If you don’t make time for sleep then you’ll find that your health will suffer, and so will the people around you. A lack of sleep will lead to overworking, which leads to fatigue and disease.
You should be aiming for 7-8 hours of good quality sleep every night. Steps to encourage sleep include:
- Set an alarm for your bedtime
- Turning off electronics
- Avoid eating too close to bedtime
- Keep your room dark and quiet at night
- Minimize screentime before bed
- Avoid alcoholic drinks
Regular exercise boosts your mood, reduces stress, and improves sleep quality. What’s more, it helps to alleviate pain and stiffness associated with working in a care profession. Exercise also increases levels of endorphins which give people a natural high that can improve overall outlook and reduce anxiety. If you are unable to exercise regularly then consider enlisting the help of a personal trainer to get you started.
Practice being grateful
Taking the time to be grateful for what you have will help you to appreciate the good in your life. Self-awareness is vital when it comes to self-care as it helps people to learn about themselves and what they need. Are you really grateful for everything that you have in your life? Or do you simply go through the motions of living with very little positivity or gratitude? Practicing gratitude can help improve your mental health, so try listing everything that you’re thankful for.
Mindfulness and meditation are great ways of helping you become more aware of your emotions and cope with stress as they teach you how to control your emotions via thought rather than feeling them; two key skills for caring professions.
Start a hobby outside of work
You can start a hobby outside of work and use it to de-stress. A hobby will help you escape from the problems that are regularly faced by those working in caring professions such as:
- long hours
- long periods caring for others
- lack of downtime
There are many hobbies that you can take up including gardening, photography, drawing, writing, etc. Having several hobbies is better because it provides an opportunity to de-stress while also helping to improve your creativity and overall wellbeing.
Nurture friendships with people away from work
Being around people who are supportive and kind will always help to improve your well-being. Having a few friends outside of the caring profession can help you to de-stress and improve your quality of life.
Read inspiring material
Reading motivational, inspiring, or uplifting material can really help you to feel more positive. It is never a bad idea to read up on new ways to live a healthier lifestyle, as well as how to recognize signs of compassion fatigue so that you can overcome them.
Encourage an open working environment
Studies have shown that working in an environment that allows staff time to meet and discuss work can improve morale, teamwork, and wellbeing.
Workplaces that encourage staff to engage with each other can help promote a happier and healthier environment, as well as enable staff to hone their communication skills and compassion. This can be achieved by implementing 15-minute team meetings to discuss how well the week has gone, any concerns or improvements needed and the next week’s goals.
If you are going to be dealing with people in a caring profession then you must take the right steps to maintain your own wellbeing. This will help you to be a more positive role model for those around you, while also helping them to be less stressed.
What if you see these symptoms in someone you work with?
If you notice the symptoms discussed in this article, then you should consider speaking to someone about it. You mustn’t ignore these symptoms as they are not only detrimental to the person who is experiencing them, but also to those around them.
If you ever feel like there is someone in your life who works in a caring profession, whether it’s a family member, friend, or colleague, who could be suffering from compassion fatigue tell them about the symptoms and how it can affect them. Simply telling them about this condition will likely help to improve their wellbeing because they will now be aware of how their behavior could be impacting those around them.
If you ever feel like you are suffering from compassion fatigue then speak to your boss about it. They should be able to support and advise you so that you can get back on track before the symptoms become too severe. You mustn’t let the symptoms become worse because this could lead to burnout, which is much more difficult to deal with.
The best treatment for compassion fatigue is prevention. It’s important to take care of yourself so that you can be there for the people who need you the most. The best way to prevent compassion fatigue is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and taking regular breaks from your work.
If you’re someone who works in a caring profession then you must look after yourself; doing so will help to improve your overall health as well as protect the health of those around you.