Overcome Compassion Fatigue
Exhausted. Stressed-out. Overwhelmed. Worn-out. Done. These are words that can describe a school counselor mid-year in the best of times. The last two years have certainly taken their toll on everyone in the field of mental health. Everyone has heard that you can’t give from an empty cup. However, no matter how committed we are to self-care, when we’re also dedicated to giving students our best, sometimes that doesn’t leave much for ourselves. Here are some tips to re-focus and re-align with our best intentions in order to overcome compassion fatigue and create the best outcomes both for students and ourselves.
It’s another case of walking the talk. One of the things we teach kids, educators, and parents is the importance of establishing and maintaining boundaries. It’s an important part of a healthy relationship. However, many counselors don’t set appropriate boundaries for their own work life. Keep in mind that you are a powerful role model and when you set boundaries related to your time, your energy and your relationships, you are setting an example for others.
Get Some Support
Every counselor needs a mentor, a confidant and a teammate. This is probably not all going to be found in the same person. Whether you are a first year counselor or you’ve been at it for years, we all need someone to be our mentor who is more experienced and can keep us growing and learning. The world of mental health is constantly changing and it is helpful to have someone who can keep us from getting stagnant and too comfortable with our standard way of doing things. Find someone to be your mentor who can lead you from their experience and challenge you to become all you can be.
A confidant is someone to talk with when you are stressed out. They need to be a good listener and know how to talk you off the ledge. He or she can walk you through problems when they seem impossible. They are trustworthy and model unconditional love when you need it. The other side of finding a confidant, is being a confidant in return. As much as you receive, you’ll need to give as well. While this might sound like more stress, its actually been shown that helping others can reduce stress. It can also help you understand problems from a different perspective. A great exercise in how to be a confident is to write yourself an email or letter expressing compassion or understanding for this element of your life. Imagine what someone who cares about you might say. If you have trouble finding a confident, pull out the letter on your most stressful days and use it to provide reassurance.
Finally a teammate is someone that you can work with who shares your vision, is enthusiastic and enjoys collaborating with you on projects. Counseling can be a lonely job, and having someone to plan with and to lend a helping hand when you need it can be energizing.
Laughter really is the best medicine. It may seem silly, but looking for the humor and perhaps even creating it, is the best way to help cut the stress. Be intentional about finding the things that make you laugh and doing them. Watch a funny movie, play silly games with your kids, and be goofy yourself. You’ll not only be helping yourself de-stress, but everyone around you as well. The Mayo Clinic lists many of the advantages of laughter. The short-term benefit of laughter can “stimulate many organs, activate and relieve your stress response, and soothe tension.” The long-term impact of laughter can “improve your immune system, relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction, and improve your mood.” These are scientific reasons to incorporate laughter and fun into our everyday lives.
Counseling is one of the most stressful jobs, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. Maintaining your own self care is essential.