The concept of compassion fatigue has been around for twenty five years. Often closely linked (and at times incorrectly used interchangeably with) burnout, compassion fatigue has been a focus for researchers interested in mitigating the risks workers face with prolonged exposure to the suffering of others. Leading experts are calling for a change in terminology, suggesting that ‘empathic strain’ is a more accurate term due to the differing neural networks involved in empathy and compassion. See below for a brief overview of the discussion.
Within the helping professions we often focus on the more challenging end of the joy - pain spectrum in this work: exhaustion, compassion fatigue, secondary stress and vicarious trauma. This blog series seeks to rectify that, with Part 1 focusing on vicarious resilience, Part 2 unpacking compassion satisfaction, and Part 3 addressing the importance of, and risks associated with, connecting with others. Cultivating awareness of both ends of the joy - pain spectrum in the helping professions is essential in supporting worker wellbeing.
Post-traumatic growth is a familiar concept to many. But what about other positive impacts that workers can experience? Vicarious resilience and compassion satisfaction help us to understand the ways that workers in helping or caring roles can be positively impacted, or even transformed, by witnessing the strength and resilience of others. Holding an awareness of both ends of the spectrum - the joy and the pain in the work - may hold the key for a healthy, successful and durable career.
Creating playlists for fun, to exercise and support us through hard times has always been a great thing to do. You might not think about it much, but your music playlist impacts your mood, your thoughts and your body. And if you're having a hard time, it's worth noticing if the music you listen to is helping.... or not.
Therapy groups are a fantastic way to find support and connect with others facing similar experiences. They bring people together, help you to see that you are not alone and can be a way to learn about yourself in relation to others. In joining with others in a group, you can develop skills in communication, see things from different perspectives, share learnings and develop some great networks of support.
When so many of our challenges are a result of pressures from work and (rather topically) society in general – reference to ‘self care’ can seem to be a dismissal at best. What of the larger systems and social mechanisms at play? How can we look after ourselves and each other? Social buffering and ideas about connection and empathy give us some clues.