In the constant barrage of bad news being thrown at us 24/7, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with sadness or anger about the state of the world, or alternatively to get so used to seeing pain and suffering that we ignore it and tune it out. It’s impossible to be empathetic towards every single person that experiences suffering. And even if we tried, taking on so many other people’s pain would cause us incredible harm and suffering ourselves. So, how do we ensure that we remain compassionate for people as much as we can without becoming so emotionally overextended that we can no longer function or relate to others? Research suggests that an effective way to combat compassion fatigue is a combination of self care and boundaries.
Here are some tips from Psychology Today on how to practice this:
Breathe. Feel calmer by inducing the relaxation response and engage in slow, steady, deep breathing.
Set limits on your exposure to upsetting information. As much as feasible, monitor how much time and attention you give to stressful stimuli.
Meditate to better assimilate and integrate your emotions as well as achieve more distance from them.
Journal. Give vent to and more thoroughly process whatever might be worrying you.
Exercise regularly to stay healthy and restore your energy.
Talk to a trusted personal friend or a therapist about what’s distressing you.
Make sure your diet is one that’s truly nourishing and promotes stamina and vitality.
Reach out to support groups or networks.
Generate a set of coping strategies customized to your individual needs and likes (e.g., hiking, yoga, joining a band, prayer, etc.).
Devote more time to hobbies you enjoy, which can divert attention from ongoing emotional stressors.
Do whatever you need to make sure you’re getting enough restful, restorative sleep.
Be variably empathetic instead of constantly empathetic. It’s important to not allow your empathy to take over your thoughts, feelings, and life. Choose a few issues that matter to you and be active on those fronts. You can’t help everything and everyone and in trying to do so, you will be less effective than if you focused on a few worthy causes.