Six Ways to Avoid Empathy Burnout

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by another’s emotions that it is hard to process your own emotions? Do you lash out at loved ones in your life, and feel like you are spiraling downward into compassion fatigue, or empathy burnout?

At the end of the day, nurses can feel a lot of sadness, exhaustion, detachment, and anger. As time goes on, we might be unable to empathize with others due to our own desensitization. Those of us who spend a lot of our time and energy caring for others can be easily burned out. Here are some key elements of to add to your resilience toolkit:

  • Mindfulness Meditation. This is a great tool and I’ve posted here about it before. The process can be as easy as taking a breath during stressful situations. Practice this technique on a regular basis to see results.
  • Gratefulness Journal. This is a place to write down that for which you are grateful in your life. Everyday, write down three things that you are thankful for, or that make you happy. Then, at the end of the day, write down three good things that happened on you shift. This can help to redirect your attention if it was a particularly bad day.
  • Organizational Support. Form a support group at work and get your employer involved. Talking to other people about the problems you are facing helps you realize that you aren’t alone. Hospitals often provide counseling benefits to their employees through their health insurance.
  • Take Your Breaks. It can be hard to get away sometimes, but make sure you take a break. Leaving the floor for just 15 minutes to do something for yourself can really give you a boost of mental energy.
  • Don’t Shut Out Others. Don’t isolate yourself from others at home. If they ask you about your day, let them hear you out about what’s bothering you. They don’t have to fix it, but just by listening they can help.
  • If You Lash Out, Seek Help. Getting angry with others in your life is a sign that you need to process your emotions in a better way. Help yourself and those in your life by getting some counseling.  

After reading this, do you have some of your own techniques for decompressing? Let me know in the comments what has worked for you and what doesn’t.

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Balance, Letting Go, and Non-Striving

Balance means different things to everyone. Some people are content where they are in life, and don’t want to achieve anything more. Some people are constantly striving, but don’t seem to get anywhere. When I was studying for my Bachelors in nursing, one professor started off every class with a meditation. Each week we would focus on a different aspect of mindfulness. One of them was “Letting Go.” It’s important to let go of worry, anxiety, fears, and to just be present in the moment. This is one of the ways I’m working to bring balance to my life. Once you realize that all worry is futile, and is nothing but a waste of time, more balance and happiness will come into your life.

There are many videos on YouTube that are all about letting go of worries, fears, and past relationships. I like the guided meditations that can help calm and relax me after a stressful shift. Another aspect of mindfulness that goes along with Letting Go, is Non-Striving. The meditation that we would listen to in class was by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and his non-striving explanation can be found here. There are nine aspects of mindfulness and Jon Kabat-Zinn provides excellent resources.

If you are looking to add balance to your life, I highly recommend some form of meditation.

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