Compassion Fatigue

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If you’re in education you’ve probably either heard of or experienced ” teacher burn-out,” a condition that results from being over-worked or under-valued or the experience of a disconnect between the work you required to do with the truths you know to be true about teaching.  This Wednesday my social worker gave a presentation to our staff about something I had never heard of, “Compassion Fatigue.”   

Compassion fatigue is common in fields like education where people are regularly taking care of others.  It’s best described as “the cost of caring too much.”  From the outside, it may sound like burn-out, but it results in much more grief, sadness, and detachment from the person being affected.  If not treated, the results can affect the person physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

A truly eye-opening part of the presentation was on Self-Compassion.  We each took this survey that required us to rate ourselves from one to five, one being almost never to five being almost always on a variety of statements related to the way we respond to difficulties.  Some of the statements included:

  • When I feel inadequate in some way, I try to remind myself that feelings of inadequacy are shared by most people.
  • When things are going badly for me, I see the difficulties as part of life that everyone goes through.
  • I’m disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies.
  • When I fail at something important to me I try to keep things in perspective.
  • When I’m feeling down I try to approach my feelings with curiosity and openness.

Prior to taking this survey, it had truly never occurred to me that other people would have similar feelings of inadequacy.  Just knowing that gave me an incredible sense of calm.  Other staff members that I spoke with at the training made similar comments.  Without even looking at the results, just rating myself on the survey made me realize that I am not very compassionate towards myself.  Self-judgment has always been my go-to.  The thought of any other option was completely foreign.

I don’t think it was anything that my parents, teachers or anyone else did that resulted in me being so hard on myself.  It was just always there.  This has gotten me thinking about our students.  What are their inner thoughts?  Do they judge themselves harshly or do they practice self-compassion?  Do they feel alone in their failures and self-doubt or do they recognize that feelings of inadequacy are shared by others?  

People who are self-compassionate handle stress better, move forward more quickly, and can enjoy life more because they are able to live in the moment.   If you take the survey, there are some strategies and exercises recommended for developing more self-care.  At our training on Wednesday, we learned the following:

  • Separate from what you wish you can do from what you can do.  Set a daily intention with something small.  (Small daily wins practiced over time lead to big ones!)
  • Acknowledge your fears…and release them!  
  • Develop a Self-Care Plan…part of this is being ok with saying No!
  • Create a Strong Network…Disconnect from things to connect with people
  • Be Authentic…Embrace who you are!…Let go of the pressure to be someone else…model this for students!
  • Practice Mindfulness…Daily practice…change your view and you change our world

I’m sincerely so grateful to our social worker for putting together this training for our staff.  It’s already helped me to be more self-compassionate over the past few days.  Let’s all be a little kinder to ourselves.  You are perfect the way you are today, not because of your actions or what you will become.  Like Stuart Smalley said, “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.”

 

 

 

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