Feeling Compassion Fatigue? Here are Five Ways to Decompress over Thanksgiving.
Search any list of “most stressful jobs” and you’ll find the usual: firefighters, pilots, police officers, CEOs, and soldiers. You know as well as anyone that “funeral director” should be ranked in the top ten, and for many of the same reasons. You’re running a business, dealing with the crippling grief of others, and trying to manage work-life balance amid an unpredictable schedule. Death care is stressful, and every so often it takes its toll in the form of compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue–a state of extreme tension or burnout that occurs when someone spends most of their time caring for others, especially during or after traumatic events.
It is common among physicians, military personnel, attorneys, family caregivers, and yes, funeral directors. Even Mother Teresa recognized the potential for compassion fatigue among her nuns and insisted they take time off to de-stress.
You probably have a good idea if you’re nearing emotional overload (if not, take this quiz to find out where you stand on the Professional Quality of Life Scale) and need a break or distraction…or perhaps even professional help. Here are just a few ways to deal with the stress of the job you love.
Engage in a hobby
What do you enjoy doing outside of work? If you have a favorite hobby, commit more time to pursuing it. Golfing, fishing, hiking, hunting…spending time outdoors has the added benefit of enjoying nature and gaining a wider perspective of the world outside the funeral home. Even if your hobby is more indoors-oriented, like reading, playing video games, or “Netflix and chill”-ing… try to avoid multitasking and simply escape into the world of the book or on the screen.
Write it all down
Scientific research has proven that writing can reduce stress. This is especially true when you use a journal or personal blog to record or wrestle with your emotions. Putting things down on (real or virtual) paper can be cathartic, humbling, and enlightening all at once. Write about your day’s challenges as well as the great things that happened, or make a list of things that make you happy or feel grateful. If you doubt the power of journaling to combat compassion fatigue, consider this list of 83 journaling benefits.
Talk to someone
There is no shame in seeking out an impartial person with whom you can share your stress and concerns. Talking to a therapist, psychologist, or even a spiritual confidant on a regular basis can help you realize that your thoughts and feelings are completely normal, and a professional can offer personalized guidance on how to deal with debilitating stress and overwhelming emotions.
Take a vacation
The emotional weariness of compassion fatigue is often accompanied by mental and physical exhaustion. Your body, mind, and heart need time away from death care. Whether you choose a weekend getaway, a five-day retreat, or a few days off here and there, try to disconnect as much as possible from your business by turning off your phone or maybe going completely off-grid, away from any and all technology and distractions.
There are several steps you can take to nurture your emotional health. While the term itself sounds a little new-age or touchy-feely, “self care” simply means being kind and respectful to yourself. Set some personal and professional boundaries–like never allowing yourself to work more than 24 hours without sleep, or taking a lunch break away from the funeral home everyday. Sure, your lunch may take place at 3 p.m. after two back-to-back services, but you owe it to yourself to take time to breathe, nourish yourself, and decompress. Self-care also encompasses things like exercise, meditation, continuing education, faith-based activities, and regular appointments with your physician.
The last thing you want is to become so distracted and disabled from compassion fatigue that you lose your passion for your calling. Following one or all of these steps will improve not only your emotional wellbeing, but also strengthen personal relationships and help you provide an exceptional and authentic level of services to the families in your care
What stress-relieving activities will you be engaging in over Thanksgiving? Our fingers are crossed, hoping you all get a little time to relax. Happy Thanksgiving.