For many of us, the past year and a half has caused us to significantly shift how we interact with others, ourselves, and our communities.

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic, while juggling day-to-day work, school, and parenting responsibilities, while also navigating constant reminders of our collective grief and loss, has been, to put it lightly, challenging.

We’re still sifting through the aftermath: Grief. Financial hardships. Ongoing concern for your own and your family’s health and safety. Extended social isolation. All these experiences can bring about feelings of burnout and compassion fatigue.

Understanding compassion fatigue

Compassion fatigue occurs when we are physically and/or emotionally exhausted.

Navigating the world during the pandemic, while also experiencing or growing more aware of racial injustice and enduring or witnessing natural disasters, has caused burnout to occur more readily. With so much happening at once, it’s hard to feel like there is time to process everything and recover.

When we are absorbing these traumas every day, either directly or indirectly, it can help to have a plan in place to mitigate the long-term impact burnout can have on ourselves and on our relationships with loved ones.

Addressing compassion fatigue

Just as self-care looks different to everyone, so does finding ways to cope with compassion fatigue. Here are a few strategies to consider as you explore options that can work for you:

  • Resume doing those activities you found fulling in the past.
  • Go outside for fresh air or take a walk and notice the simple things, like how the sun feels on your face.
  • Set realistic boundaries for yourself by limiting social media, notifications on your phone, or interactions with others that drain your energy.
  • Be aware of the physical cues your body is signaling, which could be signs of distress: Jaw clenching. Inability to sleep. Headaches. Feeling constantly on edge.
  • If you are noticing any of these symptoms, find safe ways to release the emotions and experiences that may be causing your distress. Consider taking time to journal. Practice mindful breathing. Reach out to a friend, family member or partner who can provide you with a safe space to feel seen and heard.
  • When so little feels within our control, finding small ways gain control can be helpful. Consider cooking your favorite meal or establishing new routines, such as going out for a morning walk or sitting outside in the evening with a cup of tea.

It’s important to create a plan for yourself to combat burnout and compassion fatigue before the symptoms start impacting your ability to care for yourself, your family, and community. Our bodies were meant to carry us through tough times, but you deserve a break to recover.

Although the last year has made us resilient and shown us how resilient we can be, caring for yourself can help your body and brain return to a new state of normal.

If you need additional information or a referral for counseling, please contact your EAP.