Compassion Fatigue During the Pandemic

Given this current pandemic, we might perhaps be getting close to, or already suffering from, compassion fatigue.

Symptoms of compassion fatigue include no longer feeling empathy or compassion for people or causes that we previously did feel it for. It is similar to burnout, but is more prevalent than burnout when we are surrounded by trauma – as we are now.

If we are a natural caregiver, we are more prone to compassion fatigue because we naturally give more. Also, if we have unresolved childhood trauma around a sense of responsibility – in other words, if when we were young we had to emotionally or physically care for people in a way that was too adult for our age – then we will be more prone to compassion fatigue.

We have been in lock down for a month or so – longer for some – and there is a lot of collective fear and anxiety, and trauma. Looking at or reading the news can exacerbate this. Some of us will have lost people we know, or will be trying to support people who are suffering from their losses. On top of that, we might be living with people who are also experiencing their own anxiety and stress. All of this can contribute to compassion fatigue.

If we are exposed to the trauma of this pandemic in whatever form it might take, whilst in lockdown it is much harder for us to take a break from it. Everything feels “magnified” at the moment. It is as though everything has been ramped up to full volume – or put under an extraordinarily huge magnifying glass.

So we really need to look after ourselves more – we need to magnify our self care in order to cope with the magnification of difficult material. And to really look out for our own compassion fatigue. Being aware of it is the first step. Then once identified it is time to rest, and ramp up the self-care – no matter what “needs” to be done; that can wait whilst we recover.

Author: Lucinda Gordon Lennox

Lucinda works at TRC which has clinics in London and Edinburgh

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