May 11

Compassion Fatigue and What To Do About It


It’s not uncommon for someone who takes care of others to experience burnout. Working too hard, not setting clear boundaries or trying to over deliver can take a toll on our physical and emotional well-being. But as a life coach or someone working in a helping profession, it can sometimes be more than burnout. 

Have you heard of compassion fatigue? Compassion fatigue is something that many people in helping professions such as coaches, therapists, doctors, nurses and other caregivers experience from their work. Although some degree of compassion fatigue is relatively common, it’s still a serious issue because of the impact it can have on those who hold these positions.

Let’s talk about compassion fatigue and how to recognize its signs and symptoms. Then, we’ll share some tried-and-true steps for overcoming it so you can get back to the work you love. 

What is Compassion Fatigue?

The American Institute of Stress defines compassion fatigue as the “emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from the consequences of dramatic events. It differs from burnout but can coexist.”

Coaches can experience compassion fatigue due to their regular exposure to people who are facing their most difficult struggles and personal distresses. If you have a heavy client list or have been seeing clients steadily for an extended period of time, you may be at a greater risk for experiencing some of the physical, emotional and spiritual consequences of compassion fatigue.

As a life coach, it is possible to become overcome by the problems and struggles of others. It is only natural for some of that negative energy to take its toll on your emotional well-being. The feeling can even be intensified when their issues trigger your own personal struggles and emotional baggage.

Signs and Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue

Typically, compassion fatigue comes on quickly. It may be the result of one specific event or a buildup of events over time. The AIS has listed some of the most common physical, cognitive and emotional signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, continue reading to learn how you can address compassion fatigue quickly and overcome the effects. 

Physical Symptoms 

  • Headaches 
  • Loss of sleep
  • Fatigue 
  • Decreased attention span
  • Tension
  • Forgetfulness 

Emotional Symptoms 

  • Increased emotional intensityDepression 
  • Isolation
  • Anger
  • Feelings of hopelessness 
  • Cynical worldview 

How to Manage Compassion Fatigue

If you think you may be experiencing compassion fatigue, know that there are many things you can do to manage it and overcome the physical and emotional distress that you are feeling. 

Know that you are not alone.

Experiencing these feelings is not unique to you. Many coaches experience compassion fatigue at some level throughout their careers. Know that you are not alone and what you are experiencing is normal. Also understand that experiencing these feelings does not mean that you are not an effective coach or that you are unable to handle this kind of work.

Get your own help.

Just because you are a coach, doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from getting your own coaching. Find a coach who understands what you are going through and who is able to help you process the feelings that you are experiencing.

Take care of yourself.

Self-care is quite the buzzword right now and that’s because it is so important. As a coach, you are constantly giving. Taking the time to truly care for yourself allows you to give back to yourself, refill your own energy and be more giving, effective and powerful in coaching your clients. 

Set boundaries. 

Just like self-care is a non-negotiable, setting boundaries with your work cannot be ignored. Set up your schedule in a way that allows you to have time for yourself, your family, exercise or whatever lights you up and energizes you. Seeing more clients and filling up each hour with coaching is not beneficial to your well-being.

Compassion fatigue is nothing to be ashamed of; rather it is something to face head on. If you are experiencing burnout or believe that you may have compassion fatigue, know that you are not alone. Seek help from your own coach and from other coaches in your network. Be sure to take care of yourself and set healthy boundaries that allow you to protect your energy so you can show up the way you want for your clients.

Life Purpose Institute – Life Coaching Certification Programs

Life Purpose Institute has trained thousands of coaches over the years to become the most effective life and spiritual coaches in the industry. If you are interested in learning about becoming a coach, contact our team today to learn more about our certification programs. 

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burnout, compassion fatigue

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