People who choose to work in social services, churches, healthcare, and other “caring” fields are there because they feel driven to help others. We say they have big hearts and rely on them to be there for others in their time of need, but sometimes that can be overwhelming.
I speak from experience. My past work in a domestic violence shelter was gratifying, but there were times when it took every ounce of my mental and emotional energy to get through the day. When you face problem after problem, it’s hard to stay upbeat and be supportive for the next person who comes to you with an urgent need.
That feeling is called compassion fatigue. It’s usually temporary, relieved by a couple days off or time with supportive friends and family. But sometimes, the needs and the pressure become so constant and relentless that compassion fatigue starts to take control, leading to burnout on the job, interfering with one’s ability to serve, or spilling over into personal lives. The stress also causes health problems and increases absenteeism and turnover.
There’s good news. Compassion fatigue is perfectly normal, and there are simple steps you can take to keep it from overwhelming you and your team. We’ve helped individuals, churches, businesses, and other organizations learn how to protect themselves and their families while they’re busy helping others.
Danielle Huff oversees many of the day-to-day details at Care to Change, including our hiring and staff retention strategy.