While the idea of compassion fatigue can conjure up an image of an empty tank, as though we can just 'run out' of compassion like a care might run out of gas, there's also an opportunity to think of compassion as a renewable resource. An individual caregiver might struggle with compassion fatigue, but when compassion is enacted in community, the loneliness of the caregiving burden can be addressed more effectively.
Moreover, when compassion-givers honor mourners and survivors, they discover and witness to the expertise of those who are suffering rather than only the expertise of those offering care. By recognizing mourners and survivors as experts in their unique experience of trauma and healing, and sharing best practices with one another rather than doling out prescriptions, compassion-givers also receive nourishing kindness and compassion.
Along with being part of a community of care, Carle notes how practicing self-compassion while offering compassion to those who are mourning or surviving trauma acts like an antidote to fatigue.
Self-compassion goes beyond self-care; it encourages us to show kindness to ourselves, rather than judgment, and to connect with the reality that all humans are limited and imperfect. These efforts can help us remain in the crucial relationships of support that will sustain us in our caregiving efforts.
Here are some examples of a few more best practices:
- Communicate regularly with trustworthy colleagues who encourage and inspire you
- Practice healthy habits, including eating well, sleeping, and exercising
- Sing, pray, dance, and create art to express your experience and remind yourself of blessings in life
- Consider what it means and find ways to bind your wounds, even as you bind the emotional and spiritual wounds of others
- Seek out and request opportunities to be blessed and restored by other leaders
- Find ways to partner with colleagues to build community resilience