Compassion fatigue, burnout, and self-care

When I decided to write again, I was at first going to write a long-winded post reflecting on the past year, but I’ve decided to jump right back into writing. I’ll likely be addressing several of those topics in future blog posts.

None of us have an infinite well from which to pour. In some communities, it’s well-known that people regularly experience ‘burnout’. In discussions, people often attribute that fact to several factors. Negativity, a hostile environment, etc.

A syndrome I posit that could be a large factor in this is ‘compassion fatigue’. As you may or may not know, earlier this year, I had a significant health scare. As a result, I had a temporary mild brain injury. For years prior to that, I had worked both at the forefront and behind the scenes advocating for sanguivores and spent little time caring for myself. My well had truly run dry. Compassion fatigue is a syndrome where someone puts the needs of others before themselves too often. The result is extreme burnout, excessive blaming, quick to anger and irritability. With what happened to me, I had become hostile to those around me and ended up in a place of apathy.

Care is a theme that comes up in my private life, as well. I’ve always been someone who likes to care for others. That’s part of why I first got involved with sanguivore advocacy. I expect most people who try to help sanguivores began for that same reason. No one wants those people to be left out on their own without help. I wanted to be the person my younger self needed. Too often, we try so hard that we, ourselves, suffer for it.

I’ve come to realise that self-care is a critical part of being able to be there for others in any capacity. Taking the time you need and establishing a routine to monitor and care for your own needs are essential. Care is a two-way street. Those who seek us also need to take an active role in their own support and learning. That care can involve things like meditation, minimalism/essentialism, exercise. Taking some time each day to affirm to yourself that you are resilient and powerful, and what you give to yourself and others. Taking some time to reflect on your hopes, wants, needs.

We owe it to ourselves to be the best version of ourselves we can be. We can then share that with others. We need to develop and care for ourselves if we are to provide care for anyone else; sanguivores included.

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