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5 symptoms of compassion fatigue in carers

Compassion fatigue, also known as burnout, can appear in workers exposed to suffering on a daily basis. Nurses, care workers, doctors, counsellors are all exposed to compassion fatigue. They work with people who are not well every day and their suffering can affect them. Early detection of symptoms of compassion fatigue can prevent more serious symptoms. Five early symptoms of compassion fatigue are as follows:

  • Frequent colds: We may think they are related to the weather, to not wearing the right clothes, to the children being frequently ill as they catch colds in school, to a temporary stage of our lives. Be careful. It could also be a symptom that you are developing compassion fatigue.
  • Reduced sense of accomplishment: Did your job feel like you were really helping others and it is starting to put you down? Does the day feel longer than it used to? You may have forgotten the reasons that brought you to this job in the first place. You may start developing some symptoms of compassion fatigue.
  • Headaches and fatigue: This may be a normal part of your life by now. You have a headache, take an Ibuprofen and forget about it. You tell yourself that it is normal to be tired trying to joggle work, family life and caring for your parents. It may well be, but it can also be a sign that you are doing far too much for others and starting to burn out.
  • Moodiness and increased interpersonal conflict: If you find yourself snapping at your loved ones for no good reason, having frequent mood swings, and/or starting to feel like you would like to be on your own for often than usual, you may be developing compassion fatigue.
  • Lack of meaning: Eventually, if you don’t pay attention to those symptoms, they may deteriorate, and you may feel numb, disillusioned and you may lose meaning. Your life may appear as having no sense at all.

Some of the more serious symptoms of compassion fatigue are similar to PTSD symptoms, experienced by trauma sufferers. Compassion fatigue is also known as vicarious traumatization. Good news is that you can recognize these symptoms and allow yourself to put yourself first. You need to look after yourself and discover your own ways of making yourself fulfilled and happy on a daily basis. This is known as post-traumatic growth. Empathy can bring you to experience human suffering and develop compassion fatigue; looking after yourself (post-traumatic growth) can help you find higher meaning and connection to others.

Also read: 5 tips to avoid compassion fatigue


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About 10 Healthy habits for mental fitness

Reflections of a psychotherapist about the 10 healthy habits for mental fitness of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)

  1. Schedule “me-time” daily: Do not underestimate the power of spending a few minutes by yourself doing what you love, cherishing who you are, enjoying your own company, loving and caring for yourself. If you wish to be loved, start by loving who you are. Then, others will automatically love you.
  2. Reward yourself: Choose things that bring your mood up. Keep a record of things that make you happy. Reward yourself by doing them or getting them when you feel that you deserve a reward.
  3. Play to your strengths: Be realistic with who you are. You are a unique human being. Respect your uniqueness by allowing yourself to be just you and play to the strengths that you have, not that you wished you had.
  4. Ask for help and offer to help: Helping others can be very healing, but some of you may need to stop helping others and start asking for help. If your energy is depleted or you have a chronic condition, it is time to ask for help.
  5. De-stress your diet: Eat a balanced diet and find pleasure in food. Feel the pleasure of choosing your own food, smell it, pick it up, bring it home and cook it with your own hands.
  6. Choose a positive attitude: At times, this may feel extremely difficult. Try to stay present to what is in the moment you are living. A positive attitude is easier when you take one issue at a time, not all of your issues, past, present and future at the same time.
  7. Practice relaxation techniques and get enough sleep: One thing will bring the other. If you have difficulties sleeping, try relaxing your body with relaxation exercises. Our bodies are often working on overdrive. We need to relax to let ourselves be replenished.
  8. Set goals and stay on target with a journal: Be gentle with yourself. If you do this, start by setting goals that you are sure to be able to achieve.
  9. Get regular physical activity: If you don’t like sports, do you like walking in nature? Dancing? Bouncing? Swimming? Anything that makes your body move will make you more active and improve your mental, as well as physical fitness.
  10. Press pause once in a while – Downtime is good.

10-healthy-habits


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Psychobable explained

explanationWhat is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

Counselling focuses on a specific issue that you wish to resolve. For example, you may wish to become more assertive in your professional life and stop being overwhelmed by all the work that is being thrown at you because of your inability to say ‘no’.

It is a short-term commitment to a number of sessions (depending of the specific issue) in order to explore only that issue.

Psychotherapy is a long-term, deeper process. It takes time and effort on your part, but it may allow you to start uncovering what makes you feel stuck, lost or lacking meaning. You may start recognising negative patterns of behaviour and changing them for others that help you enjoy a rich and fulfilled life.

You may be able to work out any past trauma in a safe environment and maybe for the first time in your life, you may feel as if you and your life are really something special you would like to invest time in.

What is the difference between a counsellor and a psychotherapist?

Basically, a psychotherapist has trained for longer than a counsellor. Both may work similarly depending on their training and your issues, but certain conditions are preferably treated by psychotherapists due to their extensive training. Both counsellors and psychotherapists attend continuous professional development workshops. I am both a counsellor and psychotherapist and have attended complementary workshops on different areas, including working with trauma, HIV and multicultural counselling.

psychiatrist

What is a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a doctor that specializes in treating mental health conditions, such as major depression, bipolar disorder…. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication for those mental health conditions. If you live with such a condition and require medication, you will be treated by a psychiatrist, but can still benefit from psychotherapy sessions. They can both be combined to achieve better results. I have worked as a psychotherapist with people who were taking anti-depressants, mood stabilizers or other medications, prescribed by their psychiatrist.

brain

What is neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity or brain plasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. It is a new term recently coined by neuroscience. It is relevant for counselling and psychotherapy, because it proves the efficacy of counselling and psychotherapy. This means that the distressing patterns that brought you to psychotherapy can be changed.


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Psychodynamic approach to counselling

You will find different approaches t counselling in Devon. Some counsellors use the existential approach, others core-processing psychotherapy and some work with movement, such as dance movement therapists. If you are looking to get help through counselling in Devon, a good way to start finding a counsellor is becoming familiar with the different approaches and maybe experiencing one or two sessions with a counsellor and see if their approach works for you. Having worked in Ireland previously, I’ve been counselling in Devon for two years. Because I am an integrative counsellor, I use different approaches. One of them is the psychodynamic approach.

 

The psychodynamic approach stems from the work of Sigmund Freud. Freud created psychoanalysis, which evolved into different branches. One of them is psychodynamic counselling. “The aim of psychodynamic counselling is to help clients achieve insight and understanding around the reasons for their problems, and translate this insight into a mature capacity to cope with any future difficulties.” (McLeod, J. 2003)  It is thus about becoming more aware of one’s own difficulties and the origin of those. According to Freud, we all have that knowledge in our unconscious, where it is hidden from us. Psychodynamic counsellors aim at interpreting signals in their patients’ behaviour, body language, or words that may help them to make conscious what was hidden to them.

Freud

The psychodynamic approach believes that we hide the unconscious knowledge by creating defences in our childhood: denial (negating information and delete from awareness), repression (forgetting information and eliminate from awareness), projection (attributing to another one’s own issues), etc. The defences were created within our first intimate relationship with our mothers or caregivers to protect us from unbearable feelings. When we grow up, we may act in ways that we cannot explain and we are unsure why we do what we do, potentially creating havoc in our lives.

 

The psychodynamic approach uses the relationship between therapist and patient to be able to bring to light these defences that have been hidden for years. Once you have a glimpse of the defences you use, causing your difficulties, you are on the right way to replacing them for more mature ones. As adults, a lof of the defences created are no longer needed, and with the help of a counsellor, they can be left behind once and for all.

 

In my work, I keep the psychodynamic theories in mind in my aim to understand the person in front of me, but I try not to limit myself by literally following any specific approach, as I believe that counselling is a fluid process that may require different approaches at different times, depending on what the issue at hand is.