Overcoming Compassion Fatigue In Your Family

There’s a new diagnosis on the block. This time, it’s for us – the parents.

A few months ago, I wrote about a must-watch stress documentary for special needs parents. Yesterday, while visiting my daughter at her residential treatment facility, I discovered a term that explains what we face even better than stress.

Compassion fatigue.

You know all that time we spend listening, lifting, caring, watching, hoping, helping, worrying, planning, advocating and giving? It has a price. Emotional fatigue, depression, weight gain/loss, irritability, forgetfulness, resentment, physical pain, and many other stress-based symptoms. Beyond that, however, is the effect it has on families. At The Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project’s site, here’s what’s listed for a caregiving organization (which, we can argue, all special needs families are):

Organizational symptoms of Compassion Fatigue inlcude:*

  • High absenteeism
  • Constant changes in co-workers relationships
  • Inability for teams to work well together
  • Desire among staff members to break company rules
  • Outbreaks of aggressive behaviors among staff
  • Inability of staff to complete assignments and tasks
  • Inability of staff to respect and meet deadlines
  • Lack of flexibility among staff members
  • Negativism towards management
  • Strong reluctance toward change
  • Inability of staff to believe improvement is possible
  • Lack of a vision for the future

Can you see it in there?

The individual battles: lack of vision, hope and willingness to connect with friends and family. The marriage battles: the discouragement, social interaction problems, aggression, and lack of flexibility. The battles with people in authority in our kids’ treatment teams: negativism toward doctors and other professionals, lack of hope for treatment options and therapies, mistrust for their insights and information.

Compassion fatigue is very real, and it’s effecting our family “organizations.”

Like the treatment of any condition, it begins with recognizing there’s a problem. If you see some of the symptoms in yourself and your family, here are some relaxation tools to build in daily to overcome it:

  • Deep breathing
  • Listen or dance to music
  • Massage – your own hands, neck, or feet – or go for a full-body massage.
  • Exercise at a mild-moderate cardiovascular rate
  • Laugh, listen to comedy or read humor authors like Dave Barry
  • Stretching and yoga
  • Prayer

For lots more ideas, click here.

Do you see any of the symptoms above in your own family these days?

What steps will you take today to care for YOU so you can avoid compassion fatigue as a parent?


*Quoted from “Recognizing Compassion Fatigue

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