What is Stress, Burn Out and Compassion Fatigue?

Have you ever felt emotionally exhausted or overwhelmed at work? Has this negatively affected your family, the relationship you have with your friends, and just every day interactions? These feelings can be quite common and it is important to spot them before they lead to other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Below are the definitions of stress, burn out, and compassion fatigue followed by ways to decrease those feelings and improve your overall well-being.

  1. Stress: The emotional, mental, and/or physical strain that results from too many pressures and demands in one’s life, typically from external sources. Stress can cause burnout and compassion fatigue.
  2. Burnout: Is a condition that occurs when, in responding to excessive stresses and demands, an individual demands too much of him or herself, eventually becoming overwhelmed, exhausted, apathetic, and negative.
  3. Compassion Fatigue: Physical and spiritual exhaustion, accompanied by acute emotional pain, that stems from a caregiving person. The caregiver is working continuously with the suffering of others, but in the process stops taking care of his or her own needs. It can be thought of as a combination of burnout and secondary trauma.

Ways to combat this from happening to you:

  1. Re-framing how you think about your work.Compassion satisfaction is Receiving a feeling of enjoyment and fulfillment out of one‘s work; stems from an internal drive that often motivates one to strive to continue to excel in one’s clinical practice.
  2. Set emotional/professional boundaries.This could be not checking your e-mail after 8:00 pm or setting a specific time to talk to a friend or go on a walk. Other ideas could be asking yourself if picking up another shift will be helpful to the patients you serve; sometimes more is not better.
  3. Setting aside time-Create space or a time limit where you will not talk about school or work. For example, during lunch break make a rule that you cannot and will not talk about work but instead something that you and a co-worker enjoy to do, i.e. hobbies or things you do for self-care.

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I can be reached at dralexrowell@gmail.com or by calling 541-590-6100

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