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Compassion Fatigue: Repetitive Stress of the Heart

Posted by Patricia S.

Caring too much can hurt. When care givers focus on others without practicing authentic self-care, destructive behaviors can surface such as apathy, isolation, bottled-up emotions, substance abuse, poor hygiene practices and emotional outbursts. These symptoms head a long list of behaviors associated with the secondary traumatic stress disorder known as compassion fatigue. Studies confirm that care givers in all professions from nurses to animal welfare workers play host to high levels of compassion fatigue. While the effects of compassion fatigue are dismal, chances for complete recovery are not. Compassion fatigue is a term, not a disease. The associated symptoms are normal displays of chronic stress resulting from the care giving work that we do. Our path to wellness begins with awareness. With appropriate information and support, we can embark on a journey that can heal past traumas and pain that currently serve as obstacles to healthy self-care. Healing begins by employing such simple practices as regular exercise, healthy eating habits, enjoyable social activities, journaling and restful sleep. Accepting the presence of compassion fatigue in our lives is a wake-up call. The good news is that we don't have to make a choice. It is possible to practice healthy self-care while continuing to care for others.
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