Compassion fatigue is one of the most unpleasant feelings a human being can experience. There are so many reasons in this modern world for us to feel empathy or compassion for another person (or people), and at times it can be very easy to feel drained by it all. This is then compounded by feelings of guilt – how dare you feel drained, with all of the privilege that you have? – and before long, you’re so stressed that you don’t even know where to start dealing with it.
It’s a common feeling among those in caring professions, and those who care for sick loved ones, but compassion fatigue is not limited to the occupational sphere. For those of us who look at the way the world is, and are struck by the suffering of those fleeing wars, enduring famine, or facing repression from their own governments, it’s more than a little tough. 24-hour news media means you’re rarely more than a few clicks away from seeing something that will distress you. It is vital to retain our compassion and our empathy – they’re in too short a supply in this world – so it’s important to follow the tips below on avoiding compassion fatigue…
Know the signs of burnout, and step back if it gets too much
If you’re someone who fights for causes, the chances are you come from a position of relative privilege. That position is bound to make you feel guilty if you sometimes feel too tired to attend a march, run a fundraising campaign, or lobby your congressperson. However, burnout is a very real problem and it can arise even when you’re a true believer in what you do. Pushing through something when you feel exhausted is noble – but in the long term, it might not be the best thing for you or for those who need your voice. Too many good people have worked themselves into serious illness, so knowing when to stand back is essential.
Don’t feel the need to give everyone a hearing
There are some causes that absolutely deserve our attention, and merit the signal boost we can give them through our own channels. If you are a campaigner who runs a website or blog, it’s good to get a message out there to give it oxygen, and when people contact you with causes you support there is a lot of good you can do. On the flip side, there will be those who seek to exploit your good nature by spamming your blog with comments. Knowing how to identify link spam, block out the cynics, and keep your literal and mental bandwidth for deserving causes is an essential part of self-care.
There’s safety – and relief – in numbers
It’s easy to feel you’re not doing enough, but there is only one of you, and only 24 hours in a day – and you have to sleep sometimes. Being passionate about a cause leads us to want to make our voices heard, but it doesn’t have to be your voice every time. Getting the right people around you can take more work, to begin with, but it means that you can divide up the work of campaigning and still get a lot done. Use tools like social media and crowdsourcing apps to spread the load, and when you need to be the one in the spotlight you’ll find it easier to shoulder the burden.
This is a collaborative post.