What is Compassion Fatigue and How To Cope With it

Learn how to deal with compassion fatigue and recognize the symptoms of it. With time you can begin to feel like yourself again and notice when you begin to lose empathy toward others due to your work field or circumstances.

what is compassion fatigue

Since the start of the pandemic, globally we have experienced great lost.

We have experienced more grief over our lost freedom, the ability to maintain our routines, not seeing family, constant worrying about our health and the wellbeing of our loved ones, financial hits and the increase in deaths.

For months, health care workers, social workers, those on the front lines and people who have seen the effects of the coronavirus through different interactions have been feeling worn out.

"I can't do this. This is too much. I'm tired"

I've uttered those sentences more in the last 10 months than I have in my entire life.

The feeling of fatigue associated with caring for others has been coined compassion fatigue.

Keep reading to find out what exactly it is, how can you can notice if it is happening to you, and what you can do about it.


This post is in collaboration with Nikky from @MomentsUnfolded an Instagram page geared toward advocating for mental health and healing.


Related Post: How to prevent burnout

Related Post:: 11 obvious signs you need a lifestyle change

What is compassion fatigue

In essence, this can be defined as emotional and physical exhaustion.

A type of stress that results from helping or wanting to help those who are traumatized or under significant emotional duress.

Think of service providers

It was previously a term used heavily to describe those who were in a field where they constantly needed to think of someone else's needs (social workers, therapists, nurses etc.) but with COVID-19 being the new topic of 2020, it can apply to those who feel responsible for the health of those who are more at risk.

Why is it important

It’s undeniable that being in a space where one has to provide emotional and healing support is an incredibly demanding experience. Regular exposure to this environment can result in compassion fatigue.

In the words of Naomi Rachel Remen, “the expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it, is as unrealistic as expecting to walk through water without getting wet”.

Compassion fatigue affects young adults

How has it affected young adults

86.9 percent of emergency response workers reported having symptoms after being exposed to highly distressing events with traumatized people.

A 2015 study discovered that people serving the community — such as firefighters, police and animal rescue workers — were found to have the highest rates of suicide in the workplace: 5.3 per 1,000,000 workers.

What are the symptoms?

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Bottling up emotions

  • Intrusive imagery

  • Feeling discouraged about the world

  • Isolation

  • Hopelessness

  • Exhaustion and irritability

  • High attrition (helpers leaving the field)

  • Substance abuse

  • Compulsive behaviors (e.g. engaging in risky behavior; overeating)

How can you cope with compassion fatigue?

Try to reduce exposure to repeated trauma

This can look different for everyone. Limit the amount of news that you watch and avoid temptation to open up media headlines before you have begun your day.

Although this can be challenging for people who are in professions where this is inevitable, attempt this as much as possible. Do this gradually and perhaps start a diary where you can document how you feel each day.

Don’t forget to celebrate progress, the little wins alwa