I just spoke on the phone with a friend who works in criminal justice. As she shared stories of helping victims cope with their experience, I could feel, right through the phone lines, how passionate she was about helping them. It was evident that she loved what she did and was kind to herself as she helped others. I told her that I was going to be presenting Compassion Fatigue at a Victim Assistance Academy next month and how I have found that many victim advocates are mindful of the importance of taking care of themselves. They realize that they can serve victims better if they remain healthy and learn ways to cope with their stressful roles.
Kristen Neff identified elements of self-compassion as extending kindness and understanding to one’s self when experiencing pain or failure rather than harsh judgment and self-criticism. We all know that you don’t have to suffer along with those you help. Self-compassion begins by your considering what is best for you as you help others, it moves to being concerned about yourself as you provide support, and ends by caring for yourself after you have done your job. I think Neff’s take on self-compassion can help you to always be mindful that you are undertaking a huge emotional burden and simply doing the best you can.
How much pleasure do you get out of doing the work that you do? Researcher Beth Hudnall Stamm asks this question as she focuses on compassion satisfaction as a potential protective factor against compassion fatigue. There is a greater good in society because of your helping those in need. Know that your contribution to the work setting is much needed and your efforts are appreciated.
It appears that the more satisfaction professional helpers have in their roles, the less chance for compassion fatigue. As a consultant with the Department of Justice I get much pleasure educating and empowering those who serve victims.
Take a moment and think of 5 ways you took good care of yourself today. And remember, tomorrow is another day!