Recognizing Compassion Fatigue
Compassion Fatigue symptoms are normal displays of stress resulting from the care giving work you perform on a regular basis. While the symptoms are often disruptive, depressive, and irritating, an awareness of the symptoms and their negative effect on your life can lead to positive change, personal transformation, and a new resiliency. Reaching a point where you have control over your own life choices will take time and hard work. There is no magic involved. There is only a commitment to make your life the best it can be.
Normal symptoms present in an individual include:
Bottled up emotions
Isolation from others
Receives unusual amount of complaints from others
Voices excessive complaints about administrative functions
Substance abuse used to mask feelings
Compulsive behaviors such as overspending, overeating, gambling, sexual addictions
Poor self-care (i.e., hygiene, appearance)
Legal problems, indebtedness
Reoccurrence of nightmares and flashbacks to traumatic event
Chronic physical ailments such as gastrointestinal problems and recurrent colds
Apathy, sad, no longer finds activities pleasurable
Mentally and physically tired
In denial about problems
When Compassion Fatigue hits critical mass in the workplace, the organization itself suffers. Chronic absenteeism, spiraling Worker's Comp costs, high turnover rates, friction between employees, and friction between staff and management are among organizational symptoms that surface, creating additional stress on workers.
Healing an organization takes time, patience, and most important, commitment. An awareness of Compassion Fatigue and its far reaching effects must be present at the highest level of management and work its way down to encompass line staff, as well as volunteers. Often, the mistrust that employees feel towards management is not unfounded. Since many care giving institutions are non-profit, they inherit additional challenges such as low wages, lack of space, high management turnover rate, and constantly shifting priorities.
Organizational symptoms of Compassion Fatigue inlcude:
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
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