2 Pressure, stress and you
This second section explores two key areas, namely caring and compassion fatigue, which selected workers are at greater risk of. The second key area investigated is stress and resilience. In particular, how we can ‘bounce back’ from stressful or aversive experiences.
In this free course you have already been introduced to many of the pressures associated with working in health and social care. A good way to start to think about managing these pressures is to look at the effects on you and your own capacity to cope. This is what you will be doing in this second section. As you may already know, such personal awareness is one of the basic building blocks of caring management and leadership.
Activity 2 Caring and compassion fatigue
Video 1 provides a very comprehensive outline of compassion fatigue. The presenter, Patricia, uses the term ‘caregivers’. This is often used in the international literature (particularly that from Canada and the United States) in relation to anyone who provides any form of care for others.
Watch the first instalment of Patricia giving a TEDx talk about compassion fatigue in caregiving. You will need to watch from the beginning up to 8:29 to complete this part.
If you have any problems watching or listening to this video, look at the following website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , where there is plenty of useful information about compassion fatigue in caregiving in the section entitled ‘Compassion fatigue is a set of symptoms, not a disease’, and then consider the questions below.
As you watch1, use this interpretation of the word ‘caregiver’ and think about the following questions. Make some notes about your thoughts.
- What is compassion fatigue?
- What sorts of symptoms do those who have compassion fatigue experience?
In her talk, Patricia uses an established definition of compassion fatigue:
A state experienced by those helping people or animals in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the helper.
You may be struggling with the fact that Figley’s definition refers to helping animals as well as people. However, despite this anomaly, Patricia’s talk has much relevance for anyone with responsibility, in their personal life and/or their working life, for the wellbeing of others. Most notably, caring too much can be damaging. When caregivers focus on others without practising self-care, and don’t receive appropriate support from those around them or working with them, destructive behaviours can surface. Apathy, isolation, bottled-up emotions and substance abuse head a long list of symptoms associated with compassion fatigue.
Now watch the second instalment of Patricia’s TEDx talk below, from 8:29 to the end of the video.
Make notes in response to the following questions:
- What are the causes of compassion fatigue?
- What can be done to alleviate the symptoms of compassion fatigue?
While the effects of compassion fatigue can cause pain and suffering, learning to recognise and manage its symptoms is the first step towards healing. With the right support and management, caregivers can achieve their goals, carry out their roles, stay well and live fulfilled lives.
A key and very important message in this short exploration of compassion fatigue is that those with responsibilities for others in health and social care not only need to know how to deal with stress in those they manage and/or care for, but also need to be aware of their own individual signs of compassion fatigue.