It is common and normal that those of us in the helping professions experience burn out. As an intern while still in grad I was told that it happens frequently so expect it to happen. Burn out has become a certain reality for me and many that I’ve talked due to the challenging and often stressful work that we do, particularly for those of us working in community based behavioral agencies.
However, there is something else that we must contend with, a phenomena called “compassion fatigue” referring to what can happen when helpers over a period of time begin to experience symptoms as result of repeated exposure to client traumatic stories/experiences. Clinicians and other helpers may begin to experience vicarious trauma like symptoms, i.e., sleep disturbance, anxiety, hyper vigilance, paranoia. Often the feeling of being overwhelmed by the work and as if the help provided is not enough. The response is to emotionally detach and numb oneself from feeling. This increases risk of increased eating, drinking and in cases drug abuse to self soothe.
What is one to do?
1-Talking about it helps, with therapist or EAP counselor
2-Find healthy ways to relax, i.e. meditation, guided imagery, quiet time
3-Exercise to release endorphins to improve mood, yoga, cardio, kick boxing, etc.
4-Take a vacation, if possible, if not a staycation.
5-New job setting, maybe not so possible
6-Reconnect with spirituality however you define it