Compassion fatigue.



Call it what you will, many, if not most of us, will at some point – probably many points – crunch into a spell where putting in 110% has left you with nothing but a rattling can. And perhaps a desire for chocolate, gin or trash TV.

It’s been mentioned before here how I think it’s a good idea to identify your own pants drawer as a warning sign, an orange ‘fuel low’ blinker that can alert you if you’ve not noticed. But knowing your pants are disorganised isn’t going to make a difference if you’re not acting on it; just seeing the little orange fuel pump doesn’t help add diesel to the tank.

How can you react when it’s flicked on, though?

There in lies another difficulty. When the alarm is blaring, it’s not really time to think calmly about how to respond. We need to practice it before hand. Like emotional sim training. So if you’re not there now – and given what was going to be happening today but isn’t, a few may be past this – can you think into what it’s like? Do you focus on negatives and spin into spirals of what ifs? Do you use unhealthy supports (see chocolate, gin, trash TV)? Do you wall-up, and stop seeing people just patients?

Some time, awareness of the now, and knowing you are not alone may be helpful. Identifying those around you who are good to let know, who will ask you “Are you OK?” and listen to your answer may be an approach. Revisiting the web-based CBT programme that helped US interns may be for you. Or somehow, someway, giving someone permission to make you stop.


And breathe


And fill up again.




– Bob Phillips

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