Understanding Compassion Fatigue: When Caring Takes Its Toll

Understanding Compassion Fatigue: When Caring Takes Its Toll

Today in therapy, I received the confirmation that I have compassion fatigue. It wasn't until recently that my therapist mentioned it, but I didn't pay much attention to it at the time. It was only when I got home that I decided to delve deeper into understanding what compassion fatigue truly entails.

Over the past nine months, I've accomplished so much—I've written 30,000 words for my memoir, self-published an educational book along with its accompanying workbook, created my own website, completed numerous university micro-credentials, obtained my TEFL license, and single-handedly raised my sister's surprise premature twin babies, advocating for them every step of the way despite the broken system.

Despite all this, I don't feel tired, even though I am sure that I am. In fact, I thrive on being productive, and I feel healthier and fitter than ever before. This journey of mine started a year and a half before the babies were born, so I never saw it as a problem. However, what weighs heavily on my mind is the fact that I have been somewhat diagnosed with a condition that professionals experience. It's challenging for me to let that sink in and accept that I am qualified for such a diagnosis.

Nevertheless, it's validating to have my therapist treat me like a professional, especially when I've spent the past year trying to prove myself. I'm hesitant to lose momentum, even though I'm being encouraged to rest and enjoy this time with the babies. Resting is a luxury that doesn't usually come easy when you have little ones, and I find myself feeling somewhat bored.

I continue to write every day because it has become my new passion to help others, and it always has been. Sharing my story publicly for the first time gives me a sense of purpose and prevents self-destructive thoughts. The research I've come across on compassion fatigue is incredibly intriguing, and I know that there are other women I've recently spoken to who will relate to it, even if they don't consider themselves "professionals" in the traditional sense.

I assure you that when you're raised to be a caretaker, a people-pleaser, or conditioned to fill that role, you definitely fall into this category. I encourage you to do some research and consider the suggestions provided. They will not only help but also validate your feelings, something we often lack as people who are taken advantage of and rarely given credit for all that we do.

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Sexual Assault Survivor Centre for truly hearing me and providing incredible resources and support throughout my journey so far. Their wealth of knowledge, extensive resources, and unwavering advocacy have made an immense difference in my life. I strongly urge anyone who identifies with sexual abuse in any capacity to reach out to them. The support they offer is invaluable, and they are dedicated to helping survivors heal and find their voice. Thank you, Sexual Assault Survivor Centre, for being an extraordinary source of strength and guidance. Thank you to my dear friend for referring me to them. I truly would still be lost without your guidance there, M. Love you.


Compassion is a beautiful quality that drives us to care for others and make a positive difference in their lives. However, when caring becomes overwhelming and emotionally exhausting, it can lead to a condition called compassion fatigue. In this blog post, we will explore what compassion fatigue is, its impact on individuals, and strategies to prevent and cope with it. 

What is Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion fatigue is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that arises from prolonged exposure to the suffering and trauma of others. It commonly affects individuals who work in helping professions such as healthcare, social work, counseling, and emergency services. When caregivers consistently provide support and empathy to others without taking care of their own needs, they become vulnerable to compassion fatigue.

Signs and Symptoms:

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue is crucial for early intervention. Common indicators include:

  1. Emotional Exhaustion: Feeling drained, overwhelmed, and detached from emotions.
  2. Decreased Empathy: Difficulty connecting with others' emotions and feeling emotionally numb.
  3. Physical Symptoms: Chronic fatigue, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and sleep disturbances.
  4. Increased Irritability: Feeling easily frustrated, angry, or resentful.
  5. Reduced Personal Fulfillment: Loss of enjoyment in activities previously found rewarding.
  6. Cognitive Difficulties: Memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and impaired decision-making.

Preventing Compassion Fatigue:

Prevention is key to managing compassion fatigue effectively. Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Self-Care: Prioritize your physical and mental well-being by engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. This could include exercise, hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or seeking therapy when needed.

  1. Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Learn to say no when you feel overwhelmed and set realistic expectations for yourself.

  1. Social Support: Cultivate a strong support network. Share your feelings and experiences with trusted colleagues, friends, or family members who can provide understanding and encouragement.

  1. Mindfulness and Resilience: Practice mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or journaling, to stay present and build resilience in the face of challenging situations.

Coping Strategies:

If you're already experiencing compassion fatigue, implementing coping strategies can help you navigate through it:

  1. Seek Professional Help: Consider consulting a therapist or counselor who specializes in compassion fatigue and can provide guidance and support tailored to your needs.

  1. Balanced Lifestyle: Maintain a healthy work-life balance by setting realistic expectations, taking regular breaks, and incorporating enjoyable activities into your routine.

  1. Professional Development: Attend workshops or training sessions that focus on stress management, resilience, and self-care. Enhancing your knowledge and skills can empower you to better manage compassion fatigue.


Compassion fatigue is a significant concern for individuals in helping professions, but it's essential to remember that taking care of yourself should be a priority. By recognizing the signs, implementing preventive measures, and seeking support when needed, you can effectively manage compassion fatigue and continue making a positive impact in the lives of others while maintaining your own well-being. Remember, self-compassion is the foundation for compassionate care.

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