Watching the sunrise, a favourite past time of mine, I reflected on the promise of the new day. Each morning is a fresh slate on which I can build. My mind started to race with my ‘to do’ list while yesterday’s problems regurgitated in my head. I had a moment of realisation. I have choices that would influence the outcome of my day. I was choosing stress and compassion fatigue and I hadn’t even been awake for 10 minutes! As I’m so practiced at choosing this, I thought I’d share a few tips on how you can do it too.
Here’s 10 ways for you to choose compassion fatigue:
- Recite your to do list
Every time you think of something to do, automatically list everything else that needs to be done as well. My big kids avoid me when I start listing as they know it increases my tension and the frustration that comes out of my mouth with not so generous words to others. I defend myself with, ‘I’m just organising myself’ but at the same time I feel my stress levels rising.
- Say, ‘there’s not enough time’
Even typing those words, I feel my anxiety increase. Saying those words can put you into a state of panic as you become gripped by all you must do and realise it can’t be done.
- When people ask how you are, say ‘I’m busy’
This is a great way to end a conservation, disconnecting from people (see point 4), giving you more time to attempt your to do list. Saying ‘I’m busy’ can lead to ‘to do’ list recitation (see point 1).
- Decline invitations to be with friends
We are better together. Isolating yourself from others contributes to compassion fatigue. You have no one to share with, download to, problems solve with, or even just have fun with.
- Don’t practise healthy behaviours
When time is short the easiest way to get more of it is to buy takeaway food so you don’t have to shop or cut up veggies. You can scrape together more time by choosing not to exercise. Tell your exercise partner you’re too busy, and you could always list what you have to do. If you are a Christian, cut out your quiet time and miss church. Again, not seeing friends gives you more time to be busy.
- Always say ‘yes’
Never say ‘no’. Whenever you are asked to do something by someone else (be it your boss or your mother) say yes even though your insides are screaming ‘no, I don’t want to’ or ‘that will overload me’. By having poor boundaries, you ensure you are taking on the responsibilities of others and will have more to do.
- Don’t prioritise.
With your endless ‘to do’ list, don’t analyse it or think about what needs to be done first and whether anything else on it can be delegated, wait for another time, or just not be done. Keep yourself busy with lots of little things ensuring you don’t have time for the big deadline then work all night to get it done.
- Forgo rest
As you’re so busy that you don’t have time to catch up with friends or eat properly, the idea of taking time out just to do nothing is ludicrous. Think up all the extras things you can get done if you don’t stop to rest
- Ruminate on your problems (and the problems of others)
By continually regurgitating your problems, you keep yourself in a state of stress. If you work/minister with others this includes not going to supervision or debriefing where you could both download and problem solve, or learn other ways to respond. Being exposed to the trauma of others and not dealing with its effect on you, will lead to secondary trauma as part of your compassion fatigue and even secondary Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Feel like everything depends on you
By not delegating, prioritising or using boundaries, you can create the feeling that you are alone and everything depends on you. This will increase your stress levels and lengthen your ‘to do’ list.
Although the above is written with a hint (slather) of sarcasm, I have done all these things. It is a daily choice I make which leads to compassion fatigue or not. It depends on what I choose.
Putting legs on it
What about you? What are the daily choices that can lead you to compassion fatigue? What is one choice you could make today that will not add to your stress levels?
I can help you with:
- self-care pack (click here)
- sign up to Restoring Balance course (or women’s retreat if you are in Adelaide click here). The first session helps you understand compassion fatigue, its contributing factors and assess your levels. Then look at what stress does at the basic physiological level of your body and how to manage it and strategies to not what is on the list. Click here for online course which opens 1st October – if you sign up now, get immediate access to ‘How to make a change that sticks’ online course, to prepare you to make changes to restore balance rather than choose compassion fatigue.
- Assess your compassion fatigue levels – click here