Empathy is something most people have on some level but it isn’t something that we have an unlimited supply of. While there are people who will allow others to take advantage of them time after time, there are also others who get fed up and become fatigued as a result.
The more we take on regarding others the more overwhelmed we will become. If we never stop to consider when too much is too much, we as human beings get lost. Being there for others on a serious level can take a toll on you and that’s not something you can prevent without taking a step back. If you’ve ever reached that point of exhaustion in regards, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Being too compassionate or too empathetic with others can leave you feeling compassion fatigue or emotionally exhausted as a result of overload. The more you’re taking on the more stressed you’re going to become and that stress isn’t just going to disappear without some effort on your part. We all need time to ourselves so that we can sort things out within on our own.
As we hit the limits of our empathy, without finding a way to recharge and care for ourselves, we become desensitized. We minimize the pain and suffering of others. We stop listening and change the subject. We tune out. We become indifferent.
Instead of feeling everything, we no longer feel much of anything.
This kind of thing is often seen in caregivers be it those caring for people close to them or those giving care as a career in general. They in regards to emotional labor reach a limit that leaves them feeling numb. When this happens limits need to be set in regards. Spending more time doing things that bring you happiness can help but it’s not going to cure things overnight. You have to make sure you’re taking care of yourself properly be it mentally or physically so that you can help others in the end.
Those whose work involves prolonged exposure to other people’s trauma can be vulnerable to compassion fatigue, also known as secondary or vicarious trauma, and can experience acute symptoms that put their physical and mental health at risk and make them warier of giving of themselves.
Empathy is a valuable trait for soldiers, first responders, humanitarian aid workers, nurses, surgeons, therapists, advocates for victims of domestic abuse, moderators of offensive online content, and journalists on the front lines of war and disaster. But the more such individuals open themselves up to others’ pain, the more likely that they will come to share those victims’ feelings of heartbreak and devastation. Compassion fatigue can affect the most dedicated workers—those who work extra shifts or come in on their days off, so they can continue to help, neglecting their own self-care—and it can result from exposure to a single case of trauma, or from years of accumulated “emotional residue.”
Those who regularly experience vicarious trauma can neglect their own self-care and inner life as they struggle with images and stories that can’t be forgotten. Symptoms of compassion fatigue can include exhaustion, disrupted sleep, anxiety, headaches, and stomach upset, as well as irritability, numbness, a decreased sense of purpose, emotional disconnection, and problems with personal relationships. People experiencing compassion fatigue may secretly self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, gambling, or food. Left unaddressed, compassion fatigue can develop into clinical depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
If that seems to sound like you then you need to work to disconnect in some form so that you can better your own self. While there is a lot of need around you, if you’re not taken care of you’re not going to be able to do anything for anyone else. Keep that in mind moving forward.
While not everyone will face this in their lives the more you’re around those facing trauma or pain the more present it might be in your life. As someone who is sensitive to others, you need to set proper boundaries and know your own limits. For tips on how to deal with this kind of issue when it comes forth please check out the video below.