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What Is Compassion Fatigue? Here Are The Signs You’re Experiencing It.

The onslaught of bad news — from the abortion rights ruling to mass shootings to COVID — can lead to a unique type of burnout.

With COVID, mass shootings, monkeypox, the fall of abortion rights, racially fueled hate crimes and the exploding mental health crisis ― just to name a few ― it can really feel like we’re stuck in a black hole of bad news.

There is only so much trauma a person can take before it starts to chip away at their mental and physical health. When you’re exposed to constant stressors, as we’ve all been over the past few years, it’s natural to experience compassion fatigue, a type of empathy burnout that can occur after being excessively exposed to negative events.

Compassion fatigue looks a bit different from person to person but often leaves people feeling exhausted, detached, emotionally disconnected and helpless. For example, maybe you find yourself feeling less affected by horrific shootings, or perhaps you feel indifferent to protests on reproductive justice or unable to help people living in Ukraine. Compassion fatigue is real, and it’s no surprise that so many people are experiencing it after enduring an extreme amount of pain, rage, disbelief and worry on multiple fronts.

Compassion fatigue also doesn’t happen overnight. It takes weeks, sometimes months or years, to take hold. By the time most people recognize they’re struggling, it’s fully surfaced.

“Usually we’re gradually shifting into this state of becoming less and less capable of coping with the stress of new events, and therefore, when we get big news — like what happened with the most recent ruling on abortion — we might not really have the emotional reserve to cope with such big news,” Sheehan D. Fisher, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told HuffPost.

Here are a few signs you might be dealing with compassion fatigue:

A shift in your mood

Some people may start to notice a difference in their moods and feel more agitated or irritable on a daily basis. Those with compassion fatigue tend to develop a more pessimistic view of the world and begin to lack hope about the future.

There’s “just feeling generally unhappy or apathetic or having difficulty in maintaining compassion or empathy in a way that is typical for you,” explained Jessica Stern, a clinical assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone Health.

Compassion fatigue may also cause changes in cognitive function, affecting people’s ability to think clearly, make decisions and use good judgment, research shows.

Feeling fatigued or burned out

When you are repeatedly exposed to trauma and are chronically in a fight-or-flight state, it’s typical to experience intense exhaustion and fatigue, Stern said. In the beginning, compassion fatigue can feel like a roller coaster, with dips of intense stress and depletion.

But over time, depletion will take over and set in. “With time, you’re going to find that the ‘on moments’ are going to become diluted more and more and more, where you’re just going to feel the low end of that, which is exhaustion and fatigue,” Stern said.

This is more common in people who feel like they lack agency over what’s occurring in their life. “The more that they feel that they don’t have a way to fix the problem and that there’s just a problem that’s unresolvable, it’s more likely for them to start to feel fatigued by it because they don’t feel like there’s a way to make change that they have control of,” Fisher said.

Compassion fatigue can happen after weeks of exposure to tragedy or negative news.

compassion-fatigue-lr-knost

Becoming disengaged from things that once mattered

Compassion fatigue can cause people to avoid situations that may normally cause them to feel stress or even compassion, according to Fisher.

Because they have already met their limit of what they can handle emotionally, it can feel like a burden to put themselves in yet another situation that would bring on more stress. As a result, people may become disconnected from their social networks and lose touch with the activities that previously brought them joy.

Feeling desensitized or complacent

Over time, this disengagement can turn into complacency. People can become desensitized to negative events and lose the ability to feel empathetic or sympathetic. They may develop a more muted response to stressors because they’re so burned out from their ability to engage, Fisher said. Eventually they may completely shut down emotionally.

“What we worry about sometimes is people become so complacent that they walk away from dealing with problems in general,” Fisher said.

Here’s how to cope with compassion fatigue

Stern recommends first identifying where you feel depleted — whether that’s at work, at home, in your social life or with sleeping and eating. Notice what in your life might be contributing to your fatigue. Focus on the small things that you can control, Stern says. Start there and see if that helps, then begin to make bigger changes.

Although it’s important to be aware of what’s happening in the world, overexposure can be more harmful than helpful. In some cases, it can create the reverse result, and people may become inactive or disengaged with the problem, according to Fisher. “Limiting how much we are exposed to to make it functional for the goal is important,” Fisher said.

Self-care is also crucial and can include things like reaching out to your support system, exercising, resting and taking care of your physical health. All of that can help you cope with the stress of life events.

Fisher recommends approaching your recovery as you would a big lifestyle change. “They need to maintain a certain level of well-being and a certain level of self-insight into their emotional health to know how much they can take on, or not, and know when it’s safe to take on more,” Fisher said.

If you are able to make substantial changes and adjust the factors that have been contributing to your compassion fatigue, you will likely be able to recover quicker, Stern added.

It takes time to recover from compassion fatigue — a couple of weeks if not a couple of months, according to Stern. If you try these things and the fatigue persists or worsens, it’s worth talking to a therapist or psychiatrist who can assess whether you’re experience compassion fatigue or perhaps a more serious issue.

By Julia Ries        Jul 1, 2022

source: www.huffpost.com


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The Best Foods to Fight Fatigue

Exhaustion isn’t a good look on anyone, but it’s all too easy to burn the candle at both ends in the always-connected world we live in. And when that energy slump hits, you need help. But that doesn’t mean downing a dozen cups of coffee or reaching into the candy bowl.

Sugar and caffeine will give you a quick rush, but that’s often followed by a crash. So if you’re searching for sustained energy, look for food with complex carbs, protein, and fiber. We put together this cheat sheet of things to eat and drink to beat fatigue—and a few foods that sabotage your efforts to get pumped up.

The Best Foods

1. Water
The next time you’re feeling drained, try guzzling good old H2O. Dehydration may actually be at the root of your fatigue. It can lead to headaches, ruin your concentration, and put you in a sour a mood. So hit the watercooler stat.

2. Chia Seeds
Talk about something small but mighty. Chia seeds help with hydration by absorbing 10 times their weight in water. Plus, they have the right ratio of protein, fats, and fiber to give you an energy boost without a crash.

3. Bananas
Consider this the green light to go bananas when you’re running low on fuel. In one study, researchers discovered that eating bananas worked as well as sports drinks at keeping cyclists fueled. The potassium-packed fruit also includes a bunch of good-for-you nutrients (like fiber and vitamin B6) that you won’t find in a bottle of Gatorade.

4. Quinoa
With all its protein, fiber, and iron, quinoa is the perfect thing to reach for when you’re looking to recharge. And if you need an on-the-go upper, whip up these quinoa muffin bites and grab ‘em before hitting the road.

5. Green Tea
By now, it’s no secret that green tea has a slew of health benefits. You can add putting some pep back in your step to the long list. The combination of caffeine and L-theanine give you energy without the jitters. Bonus: Research suggests that green tea boosts brainpower as well, which may come in handy when you’re down to the wire at work. Take the time to brew the tea yourself because store-bought varieties often have lots of added sugar.

6. Oatmeal
The cozy breakfast food—though, let’s be honest, you can enjoy it any time of the day—will keep energy levels up. That’s because it’s high in fiber and comes with a decent dose protein. Plus, oatmeal has a low glycemic load, a fancy scientific way of saying it stabilizes blood sugar levels. (Just make sure to steer clear of instant oatmeal packets, which can be packed with sugar and salt.) Oatmeal is also super versatile—just take a look at these 30 delicious recipes to keep food boredom at bay.

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7. Almonds
Certain kinds of fat are friends, not foes, particularly when you’re talking about replenishing your energy. And almonds are packed with healthy monosaturated fats that are just what your body needs for a pick-me-up.

8. Beans
Beans keep you going thanks to a stellar trio of carbs, protein, and fiber. The protein fills you up, the carbs provide energy, and the fiber helps regulate blood sugar. Black beans in particular are your BFFs when it comes to an energy boost—try this black bean soup recipe next time your tank needs refilling.

9. Whole-Wheat Bread
Your body needs carbs for energy, but not all carbs are created equal. Whole-wheat bread is great for a long-lasting energy kick. It’s is a complex carb, meaning it raises your blood sugar gradually instead of hiking it up at turbo-speed.

Foods to Avoid

1. Honey
Sure, honey has some serious health benefits, but it’s not something you should be reaching for if you’re looking for sustained energy. Adding a few teaspoons to your tea or yogurt will give a quick rush of energy that spikes your blood sugar, which means a crash can follow.

2. Energy Drinks
If you’re looking for a pick-me-up, don’t reach for a Red Bull. Research suggests energy drinks may do little to curb sleepiness. The combination of caffeine and sugar puts your body through the ringer and may just leave you feeling dehydrated and fatigued.

3. White Bread
While complex carbs keep your energy levels in a steady state, simple carbs, like white bread, can take your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride. Not what you want when you’re keeping a busy schedule.

4. Candy
There’s a reason you’re always hearing about sugar crashes. As anyone who’s made their way through their Halloween loot can attest, an energy low inevitably follows. While sweets may give you a quick hit of energy, it’s only a matter of time before you once again find yourself dragging. After all, candy’s made up of simple carbs and sugar (which spikes blood sugar only to let it drop way back down). How sweet it isn’t.

5. Junk food
It’s a cruel fact of life that the most accessible, easy-to-grab, and oh-so delicious foods wreck havoc on energy levels. Research has found that diets high in processed food tend to lead to weight gain and a more sedentary lifestyle. Talk about a lose-lose situation.

Alexandra Duron            Greatist

source: www.msn.com