How I Overcame Compassion Fatigue – 7 Things I Did

compassion fatigue treatment

This is Part 2 of: Feeling Fatigued And Apathetic? You May Have Compassion Fatigue. To understand the backstory to this post and why I’m a credible source to discuss this topic, you may want to read that first.

Is Compassion Fatigue A “Problem”?

Some may be looking for a treatment, to me that makes it sound like we are treating a problem. Anyone who knows me, or has been to the homepage of my website, will see my words I stand by: “People don’t need to be fixed, they just need to be woken up”.

Treatments are for problems, “waking up” is realizing that there was no problem in the first place, we just thought there was.

Compassion fatigue is still very real, I know from personal experience. However, in my experience with myself and others, when one sees something as a problem they have a tendency to resent the “problem” and what they think is the cause of the problem. This is all stems from them seeing it as a problem.

But what if it wasn’t a problem? How would that change things?

The reason I am bringing this up is that I resented Allie in the past because I saw her as the cause for my “problem” (compassion fatigue). Once I woke up to the fact that my problem was thought created, that it only existed in my mind as a problem, I was able to free myself of resentment and move toward healing myself and our relationship.

From Lost To Found, To Back Home

For the previous 6 months, my entire focus was on Allie. I neglected myself to a large degree.

I was no longer consistent with my workouts. I was no longer sticking to my nutritional plan. I was no longer being social. I was no longer myself.

I knew I was neglecting myself, I just felt guilty spending time on myself when I felt I should be spending it on Allie.

By following my inner guide, I was lead down a path back to self-love. I started getting back into a more consistent workout routine. I started eating more like I used to. I started going out socially a bit more. I started learning and growing by studying nutrition.

I gradually built this foundation back up over a period of months and cruised for several years. I had hit a plateau.

I knew something was missing. I still didn’t feel like I was all the way back home. I still didn’t feel unconditional love for myself. Something was blocking it.

I still had resentment toward Allie and myself, although not as strong. The only way forward appeared to be that I had to forgive both of us.

My future had to become more important than my past.

The transformation I went through started roughly 18 months prior to my writing this. It involved:

  • learning NLP through iNLP Center and receiving my NLP Practitioner Certification through them
  • taking up a daily meditation practice
  • waking up 60 minutes earlier to go through a morning ritual
  • reading over 60 books (and counting)
  • discovering The Three Principles understanding (by far the most impactful and profound element)

I no longer feel resentment toward Allie or myself. I have never felt more at home in my life.

7 Things I Did To Overcome My Compassion Fatigue

Based on my own personal experience, these are the 5 major elements that brought me back home:

1. Self-Love

I understand that as caregivers we can feel guilty spending time on ourselves, and we may have difficulty creating that time as well.

But if you want to come back home and love again, you must love yourself and nourish your soul. You don’t have to do it all at once but start somewhere. It can be as small as choosing one thing you used to do that you have always loved to do and spend 10 minutes per day on it. Something that when you do it, time seems to disappear. Do THAT!

It sounds so simple I know, but there is such a profoundness in simplicity. You can only give what you have inside so make sure that what you have inside is full of love.

2. Forgiveness

Self-love also encompasses forgiveness. If you hold any resentments toward yourself or the one you are caring for, you must forgive. This resentment will continue to block all the unconditional love you have to offer until you release it. Any resentments you hold toward yourself will be projected outward no matter how hard you try not to.

Bottling up resentments creates a continuous stress response inside your body which will inevitably lead to you feeling emotionally drained. It sucks all the emotional energy out of you, leaving the battery empty to feel anything else.

3. Recharge Your Emotional Battery

Without recharging, you can only sustain peak emotions for a period of time before they become unsustainable. This is when you start to feel emotionally drained, and possibly even apathetic, detached or numb.

Ways to recharge your emotional battery include being in nature, spending time with a pet, meditation, general quiet time, reading an inspiring book, light exercise etc. Generally, anything you love doing that gets you out of the environment that has contributed to your compassion fatigue is what you want to do.

This also allows you time to process your emotions.

4. DO NOT Resist Emotions

DO NOT resist emotions, this is will make your situation exponentially worse, trust me! You must feel your emotions in full force. For some, this may seem scary at first. If you are one of those people, I promise you this, your emotions cannot harm you.

Resisting your emotions actually elicits a prolonged stress response that wreaks havoc on your body. This is what leads to high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, inflammation, and nearly every other disease.

Let your emotions run their course and they will disappear on their own, you won’t have to push them away.

5. Proper Sleep

I find that the importance of sleep doesn’t get talked about enough when it comes to stabilizing ones emotional world. Proper sleep is absolutely imperative to any emotional recovery. Proper sleep is determined by quantity and quality.

You want to aim for roughly 7.5 hours of sleep (some people need more and some people need less). As for quality, if you feel groggy in the mornings, it’s a good bet that your sleep quality isn’t very good, even if you slept through the night.

It is during deep sleep that our physical body heals and rebalances, including balancing our hormones, which get thrown way out of balance in times of emotional stress. Improve your sleep to heal the side effects of your emotional distress.

6. Exercise

Exercise releases natural feel-good endorphins within our bodies. Chances are, you have not felt these good endorphins very often if you’re battling with compassion fatigue.

Regular exercise can help to rewire your brain to producing and experiencing more positive stimuli. This is important because it assists in breaking the pattern of being wired for apathy and distress.

You don’t have to go join a gym right away (although that would be awesome), you can start with a 10-minute walk every day and work your way up from there. You could join a league for one of your favourite sports as well. Just start doing something, get moving.

7. Pursue A Passion

Passion, being derived from the word compassion, will also be lacking in your life if you are dealing with compassion fatigue. With passion being generally defined as something you absolutely love to do, you will lack passion because compassion fatigue hinders your ability to love, but it doesn’t stop you.

Initially, I pursued my studies on nutrition, and more recently on coaching (and the many studies it encompasses). Studying spirituality, meditation, the mind, the three principles, philosophy, starting this blog to help up others, and much more, all have ignited a passion within me greater than I have ever felt. This passion has trickled into every other area of my life, including becoming more compassionate.

What are you extremely passionate about that you could start doing? Start doing it.

If you have experience with compassion fatigue I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below 🙂

Learn from all of your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.

Take care,

Rob Kish

Feeling Fatigued And Apathetic? You May Have Compassion Fatigue

what is compassion fatigue

Using my personal experience as a catalyst for this article, I will discuss what compassion fatigue is, some signs and symptoms you may experience, and in Part 2 I will discuss what to do about it.

Do you seem to always feel tired?

Do you feel emotionally drained?

I know I did for the first 7 years of being with my wife Allie. I was completely drained all the time, especially emotionally. It affected my social life, my professional life, and my close relationships.

At the time, I had no idea what compassion fatigue even was or that it even existed. Fortunately, I was able to overcome it through a personal transformation I went through and will continue to go through for the rest of my life, which I will explain shortly.

It wasn’t until after I had overcome the many obstacles in my life through this transformation that I learned what compassion fatigue was and that it was something I dealt with for years. I had no idea.

What Is Compassion Fatigue?

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, here are two separate definitions:

“the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those who care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time”

and

“apathy or indifference toward the suffering of others as the result of overexposure to tragic news stories and images and the subsequent appeals for assistance”

In my opinion, compassion fatigue is mental and emotional exhaustion, not physical. Physical exhaustion has another classification called “caregiver burnout”. These are two separate conditions.

Caregiver burnout is more to do with the physical duties of being a caregiver which may also include sleep deprivation. Whereas compassion fatigue is attributed to the massive amount of empathy caregivers have toward the one they’re caring for.

Signs And Symptoms Of Compassion Fatigue

  • Apathy
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Difficulty expressing emotions (especially love)
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Loss of passion for life
  • Inability to hold space for your partner
  • Impatience
  • Short-fused
  • Lack of motivation

My Initial Encounter With Compassion Fatigue

Without a doubt, I experienced severe emotional withdrawal and apathy. My situation, however, is a little more unique than the majority of caregivers.

Most caregivers to a significant other were previously in a relationship prior to becoming the caregiver, I was not. My wife, Allie, had Leukemia for 9 years prior to the beginning of our relationship. I chose to engage in this relationship knowing the risks.

I was flying high from May 2009 up until January 2010. Our relationship was amazing, and I can confidently say that I gave everything I had emotionally. I was loving, somewhat understanding, positive, and I was a rock and a pillar of strength for Allie.

When January 2010 hit, I fell off an emotional cliff. I took a week off work and lay in bed 75% of the time, just wanting to sleep. I was confused, extremely exhausted, and felt zero emotion for anything.

At this point, even though I loved Allie dearly and knew she was the one, I questioned whether I wanted to stay with her. It didn’t make sense, and I couldn’t understand why.

After this week of hell, I was never the same. I fought tooth and nail to regenerate the flood of emotions I had prior to that week but I just couldn’t do it.

How My Compassion Fatigue Developed

Now that I am fortunate enough to be in a good place mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, I can look back on my experience and observe how my compassion fatigue developed.

I distinctly remember placing myself in Allie’s shoes through various daydreams. I would do this purposely, and I would do it often.

I wanted to feel how Allie felt so that she could share her pain with me, in hopes she wouldn’t feel so alone with it.

This was my way of trying to understand her pain, of trying to understand how she sees life and the world around her.

Did it work? It sure did.

It worked so well that it eventually knocked me off the cliff.

The worst part about developing compassion fatigue is that I was not there for Allie emotionally. When she received bad news or had a bad day, I was not the pillar of strength or emotional crutch she could lean on.

What’s even worse than that, she started to avoid communicating with me about how she feels out of fear that I couldn’t handle it.

Our Internal Compass

As much as I wanted to, love is not something I had to offer during this time. In fact, much of what I had to offer is a short fuse, resentment, and indifference.

All I knew was that I had to change before I destroyed myself and our relationship. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, I didn’t know where to start, and I didn’t know where it was going to take me.

What I did know, is the direction I was going was leading me to a very dark place and I wanted to see the light.

The road I was traveling was never ending. Leading to a destination of insurmountable despair and hopelessness, consuming my sense of direction the further I went.

I didn’t see the importance of the awareness I had at the time. The awareness to recognize the direction I was going. The awareness to recognize that I always have an internal compass to point me in the right direction.

Without recognizing this, I was doomed. Now, with my newfound awareness, all I had to do was let my internal compass lead the way.

Read Part 2: How I Overcame Compassion Fatigue and How You Can Too

Learn from all of your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.

Take care,

Rob Kish