Compassion fatigue seems very oxymoronic for many in the helping professions or ministry, and individuals who have the gift of mercy. I mean, how can you be fatigued or tired from showing forth compassion? These are all admirable professions and expressions of our desire to truly help. However, many have difficulty overextending themselves or just by the nature of their work, become tired and weary.
While researching the subject of compassion fatigue, I found the
Awareness is important when dealing with compassion fatigue. Heightened awareness often leads to insight into painful situations or past traumas that are relevant to a person's current actions and behaviors. Oftentimes, people are not fully aware of the effect their work conditions or home life has on them emotionally. In some cases, becoming aware of behaviors in a person's surrounding conditions may lead a person to recognize the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue early on and prevent the condition. Awareness is also the first step to wellness for a person suffering with compassion fatigue.
Healing from compassion fatigue begins by practicing authentic self-care, finding support and obtaining information. Those who suffer from the condition may implement practices such as healthy eating habits, regular exercise, writing in a journal, healthy sleeping habits and participating in enjoyable social activities. Authentic self-care is sustainable by putting few techniques into place. Establish personal boundaries in regards to getting involved with people who are suffering, learn to express feelings and needs verbally with loved ones, make a positive change to a negative environment and enhance awareness with education.
While I do agree with the "experts" on what compassion fatigue is,and how to relieve the fatigue, I believe there is a spiritual element that is neglected. Jesus knew the importance of "coming apart" for alone time with his Father. If the Son of God needed this time, how much more do we
Jesus left the multitudes and found alone time to bask in the presence of God and to pray. I often revert to a quote to remind myself of my mission: "It's not about over-work; rather, it is about overflow." If we take time to spend with our Lord, we will have to give to those who need Him and thus need us.
During my young years as a school teacher in rural West Virginia, I had a pond behind my house where Kristin and I lived. It was stagnant and grew lilly pads, but did not take in water except for the rain. Later, I raised my children on the banks of Elk River. The river, though horrifying when it flooded, was a beautiful depiction of this principle.
The river takes in streams and other rivers and flows into other rivers. It is the perfect habitat for wildlife and fish. So it is with us: if we keep giving and giving and giving of ourselves, we become like the stagnant pond with little to offer. However, if we "come apart" before we "fall apart" and partake of God through his Son, then He flows freely through us like a river.
What the world needs is not what we have to give of ourselves; rather, what the world needs is Jesus. If we partake of Christ and He more than fills our lives, He will overflow onto a hurting world of people. We will not know compassion fatigue, but rather know what it is to be a conduit.
"If a life is broken when given to Jesus, it is because pieces will feed a multitude, while a loaf feeds only a little lad." - Author unknown (Taken from the Bible story of the five loaves and two fishes).