Are You A Formal Caregiver Experiencing Burnout Or Empathy Fatigue?
Are you a professional caregiver feeling mentally, emotionally and physically drained by the demands of your job? Are you finding yourself becoming preoccupied, anxious, irritable or depressed? Maybe you’re feeling disillusioned and cynical, as your outlook diminishes so too does your sense of self-worth.
Perhaps you’ve noticed your sensitivity to emotional material is off balance. For example, you may feel overly connected to something that has little bearing on your life, like a TV commercial. On the flip side, perhaps someone close to you recently shared they were struggling, and you felt nothing at all.
Are you having nightmares or recurring thoughts about specific patients or work-related situations? Do you dread returning to work and find you must “drag” yourself out of bed each morning? Are you experiencing physical symptoms including, headaches, digestive problems, persistent colds or unwanted changes in your sleeping or eating habits?
As these feeling mount and your exhaustion intensifies, do you sense a decreased ability to feel empathy for your patients and take care of yourself? Have you turned to alcohol, drugs or food to help comfort yourself and leave the day’s work behind?
Or, maybe you’re functioning well, and you want to keep it that way! You’ve heard of caregiver fatigue and burnout, and you want to avoid both.
The truth is the emotional and mental toll of caregiving can impact everything in your life—from your relationships to your ability to feel and function well. Even when you’re off-duty, you may find pleasurable activities fail to bring you joy. Worse, it might feel like your sacrifices for work are pointless as you begin to believe you’re not making any difference at all.
Do you wish you could acquire effective coping skills that allow you to feel calm, motivated and accomplished?
Caregiver Fatigue Is Very Common
As a care professional, you must endure the cost of caring, which often leads to placing the needs of others before your own. As a result, it’s very common to experience what’s known as compassion fatigue, empathy fatigue or caregiver fatigue.
What is compassion fatigue?
Psychology and traumatology professor, Charles Figley, explains, “We have not been directly exposed to the trauma scene, but we hear the story told with such intensity, or we hear similar stories so often, or we have the gift and curse of extreme empathy and we suffer. We feel the feelings of our clients. We experience their fears. We dream their dreams. Eventually, we lose a certain spark of optimism, humor and hope. We tire. We aren’t sick, but we aren’t ourselves.”
Caregiver fatigue is defined as a state of exhaustion and dysfunction—biological, psychological and social—as a result of prolonged exposure to compassion stress.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you are not alone! According to compassion fatigue expert, Francoise Mathieu, “Between 40 and 85 percent of helping professionals develop vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and/or high rates of traumatic symptoms.”
What is caregiver burnout?
Burnout is defined by the American Institute of Stress as the emotional exhaustion and withdrawal associated with increased workload and institutional stress.
According to Health Care It News, 60 percent of healthcare workers say they are burned out on their jobs.
And this is understandable. As author and teacher of alternative medicine, Rachel Naomi Remen, explains, “The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet.”
The aging population is growing.
Unfortunately, this work isn’t forecasted to get any easier. According to PHI National, from 2015 to 2050, the population of adults aged 65 and over will almost double, growing from 47.8 million to 88 million. This increase means more and more people are going to need care.
With formal caregivers facing growing patient loads, thinning resources and higher stress levels, there’s no time better than the present to enlist caregiver support. I can help you manage stress and reclaim the profound rewards that come with this job. It’s possible to feel balanced, calm and empowered in your professional and personal life.
Counseling For Caregivers Can Help You Prevent or Recover from Compassion fatigue and Burnout
Counseling is extremely effective in educating formal caregivers about caregiver stress. Symptom awareness is the first step in gaining the insight needed to prevent or combat compassion fatigue and burnout.
As a caregiver, you innately place the needs of others before your own. It’s common to suppress uncomfortable emotions, as you carry on with your work, they remain buried but begin to take their toll. Here, in a safe, compassionate space, we can gently guide those feeling to the surface. Once we uncover what’s driving your distress and examine how it’s impacting your life, we can implement tools to alleviate it.
I provide my clients with tailored treatment that pulls from a variety of therapeutic modalities to manage anxiety, depression and secondary trauma. For example, depending on your needs and goals, we may practice mindfulness, which allows you to accept your thoughts—without judgment—and engage in the present moment, without getting stuck in the past or overwhelmed by the future.
Together, we can identify and evaluate patterns of negative thinking which fuel poor self-worth and hopelessness. When you are feeling pessimistic, it’s difficult to take care of yourself. We will learn to recognize thoughts that are not serving you well and replace them as we practice positive self-talk and self-compassion.
Self-care is a critical component of caregiver support counseling. Here, you have a chance to put yourself first. We’ll carefully consider your habits surrounding work, exercise, diet and sleep, optimizing each to maximize health, performance and quality of life. We’ll also make sure that you’re creating space for activities you enjoy. It may seem simple, but self-care, joy and laughter go a long way in promoting overall health, happiness and career enthusiasm.
Caregivers often struggle with assertive communication and boundaries, taking on more than their capacity allows for or internalizing client’s feelings, which can easily lead to burnout. Together, in a safe place, we can practice new communication skills and boundary setting that will help you meet the needs of your career without sacrificing your needs.
No matter which stage you find yourself—prevention, compassion fatigue or burnout—I can help you identify goals and prioritize your health and happiness. As a licensed clinical social worker, I have a broad and rich background helping folks overcome a variety of challenges. I also have specialized training in behavioral health in aging. As a counselor who only works with caregivers, I am truly passionate about this work.
Caregiving can be an incredibly rewarding career, but if you’re overworked, overstressed, and under-supported, you may begin to feel out of sync with the true purpose of your calling. You’re obviously a compassionate person and the helping professions can’t afford to lose you. With the right guidance, you can reclaim meaning, peace and balance in your professional and personal life.
You may still have questions or concerns about professional caregiver support counseling…
I don’t have time.
If you neglect your own care, you increase the risk of compassion fatigue or burnout, leading to poor job performance, physical illness, frequent time off from work, falling behind and sacrificing paychecks. Getting help now can save you time and money in the future. More importantly, it can help prevent or relieve suffering.
Talking isn’t going to change anything.
There may be areas of your work that you can’t change, such as your agency’s culture, a challenging supervisor or a demanding caseload. However, you can change your perceptions, reactions and feelings. You can also learn how to establish and assert healthy boundaries, making your work day more manageable and rewarding. Talk therapy provides an opportunity to gain insight and tools that will serve you long after counseling has ended.
I’m good at my job. I shouldn’t need help—I help others.
There is no doubt you are an excellent caregiver. However, there is a cost to caregiving and recognizing its impact is not an admission of failure. On the contrary, it validates the fact that you are a deeply caring person. I’m here to help you tap into your existing strengths while gaining insight and skills that will ultimately improve your overall quality of life, at home and work.
Help Is Available
If you’re ready to care for yourself just as you care for others, please call 303-618-7595 or contact me here for a free 30-minute consultation.