It’s 5:30pm. You’re about to leave the office. You packed, closed all your emails, and you have plans with your significant other for dinner. Your phone rings. Is your first thought: “Oh crap, I forgot to turn off my phone. I’m going to ignore it”, or do you think “One more call. I can do this”?
In my profession, there is a lot of burnout. Coworkers feel drained. Deflated. Tired. Depressed. Our job, like many, requires a great deal of emotional labor. Every day I work with clients who are seeking solutions that go far beyond a transactional experience. They are wanting to feel heard and feel that they matter. They need to know that they belong, even in the face of great adversity.
Helping others through a difficult time is incredibly rewarding, but we absorb the emotion and stress of the person we help. We help them to know they are not alone. Through this open and heart-felt connection, we are susceptible to secondary traumatic stress. This is a common occurrence amongst health care workers, psychologists, counselors, and sport coaches.
I try to practice compassion daily, and attempt to go into every conversation with empathy and tact. But how do you maintain the fire for quality conversations with every single person? How can we persist when we are lacking in self-care and feeling deflated?
It’s only human that we can only carry so much of that before we become deadened to it. We build a wall to protect our hearts from more pain. We lose our empathy as we try to stop our own hurt. We start to hate our jobs or our reactions; we start to feel disappointed and depressed in ourselves. Whether it’s a conscious understanding or not, the burden becomes too much to bear. It’s important to find ways to breathe into tension. It’s important to find ways to fill our cups again.
Last year I lost myself in a depressive state around this time. This year I am trying hard to keep my spirits lifted and to shake off emotional burdens that are not mine and work through the ones that do belong to me. For me going outside, taking vitamin D capsules, yoga, and laughter are my first line of defense. So far I feel stable and content, able to assist others as I am first taking care of myself. I am better able to manage my compassion fatigue and I believe that makes me better at what I do. It’s like carrying a ladle of water: if the ladle is overflowing, you cannot fill the cup cleanly and you lose more water than you carry. If you empty a little, then you can make the journey.
Don’t take on everything all at once by yourself. Remember that you are not alone.
Love from a yoga mat, Connie