Preventing Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue is the physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion that comes from working, professionally or as a volunteer, in giving and caring roles. It is a common experience for ministry agents and church leaders; the sense that you have nothing left to give to your cobgregation (or friends and family), that it’s hard to connect with them, or that you’re not feeling as empathic or intrigued about your work as usual. It’s not necessarily that you don’t care anymore, but more your emotional cup has reached capacity, and there’s little room to move. Working in ministry requires a lot of us – our thoughts, our efforts, energy, and our care… and there’s only so much one can give, and take on, before our internal limits are reached. Here are eight things you can do to help prevent compassion fatigue.

1. Be aware

Be educated – know the causes and signs

  • Be self-aware
  • The Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL) is a 30 item self-report questionnaire designed to measure compassion fatigue, work satisfaction and burnout in helping professionals. It is useful for workers who perform emotional labour as well as professionals who are exposed to traumatic situations.  Professional Quality of Life is the quality one feels in relation to one’s work as a helper. Both the positive and negative aspects of doing one’s job influence ones professional quality of life. Here is a link to the online questionaire PROQOL5

2. Practice Self Care

  • Balanced, healthy diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Routine schedule of restful sleep
  • Balance between work and leisure
  • Honouring emotional needs
  • Regular time off / Sabbath
  • Getting away

3. Set Boundaries

  • Know when you are “on” and “off”
  • Time aside in prayer and reflection
  • Family time apart from others’ needs

4. Engage in outside hobbies / interests

  • Time to focus on things other than helping people
  • Tangible, physical, breaking the cycle

 5. Cultivate Healthy Friendships outside of work or volunteering

  • Have at least one good conversation each day with someone you are not responsible or caring for.

6. Practise Self-reflection

  • Connect with self: physical, emotional, spiritual
  • Keep a journal

7. Use Positive Coping Strategies

  • Toxic life-style issues can be tempting
  • Find healthy strategies to process stress

8. Reach out

  • You are not the only one
  • Visit a doctor, counsellor or minister
  • Call for support:
  • Lifeline