How to Overcome Overwhelm and ‘RESHAPE’ Your Life

Do you feel emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted? Are you constantly on edge and have trouble sleeping? Or are you struggling with your interpersonal relationships?

If you answered “YES” to more than two of these questions you may be experiencing signs of Vicarious Trauma, Secondary Traumatic Stress, Compassion Fatigue or Burnout.

These are all forms of stress that may affect those working “helping” professions because that work involves direct exposure to other’s trauma.

Does any of the following statements resonate with you?

1. I often feel stress and frustration caused by the workplace.

2. I feel emotionally and physically worn out when I can’t refuel and renew.

3. My worldview have negative changes due to the constant exposure to trauma.

4. I am experiencing PTSD like symptoms as a result of being a witness to one or more traumatic events.

If number 1 resonates with you than you may be suffering from Burnout.

Burnout is often due to a work culture and environment that are not set up to admit our struggles. Often the person who is raising an issue is seen as a weak one. Do answers “get a grip”, “get on with It” and “this is a part of a job” sound familiar?

Number 2 are symptoms of Compassion Fatigue.

According to Compassion Fatigue expert Francoise Mathieu between 40% and 85% of “helping professionals” develop vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and high rates of traumatic symptoms.

If you said yes to number 3 – it’s likely you are suffering from Vicarious Trauma.

Untreated, Vicarious Trauma leads to Burnout or Compassion Fatigue, which manifests in feeling exhausted and worn out, it can result in emotional distress, detachment, ineffective professional behaviour, and depression.

With PTSD like symptoms is a sign of Secondary Traumatic Stress.

Helpers who are worn out, traumatized, and fatigued, often tend to work harder, thus going farther down a dangerous path. This path often leads to physical and mental health difficulties, such as depression, chronic pain, substance abuse, and even suicide.

But only 15% of these people were willing to seek personal counselling as a result of Vicarious Trauma.

So, why are we not asking for help?

For years we have been told we can deal with it, because we have been trained for it.

We are left to deal with our struggles in silence and silence kills.

It’s time to break the silence and bring awareness to the Silent killer – Vicarious Trauma.

As an Operating Theatre Nurse for over 25 years I’ve worked in 4 different countries including Africa, England and Australia. I absolutely love my job, helping to save lives, dealing with emergencies and critical situations in a high-level work stress environment. The adrenaline rush, the complex technology, and daily challenges lead to the job satisfaction of helping others.

But there is always the other side of the coin. Long hours, shift work. Days, evenings and nights all blend into one. Spending hours on your feet, sweating under surgical gowns. Caps, mask, goggles, double gloves, X-ray protective gear is just the start. Working under artificial lights with gallons of alcohol hand rubs, dehydration, no bathroom breaks and a never-ending workload. It’s exhausting! Shift after shift, day after day, year after year. Holidays are never long enough and weekends spent with the family seems to be on the Santa’s wish list that only comes true once every 3 years.

I got really tired

I couldn’t sleep well, and on my days off I tried to catch up on life. Another failed attempt to visit the gym to justify the membership payment, then I’d write yet another ‘To Do’ list. I ignored my headaches, back and feet aches, indigestion, insomnia and mood swings. I constantly drank coffee to try to energise myself through the day. I missed parties and family catch ups because I just wanted to spend time alone in peace and recharge. Demands from my kids became overwhelming.

That was me. Some days or weeks It felt like Ground Hog Day every day. Work, Eat, Sleep, Repeat. I kept going, doing my best at what I knew by being a trained professional nurse helping others. Being a mum, wife, daughter, and friend. Ignoring the signs that my body and mind were running on empty. But I kept going…because I thought I could do it, others can, right?

Until one day I went to work and collapsed. I awoke on the Emergency Department bed in my scrubs attached to monitors. I was scared. I wanted to live! My body forced me to stop – I couldn’t carry on the way I was any longer. I was suffering from burnout, fatigued from caring for others. It was time to stop and look at what was happening to me.

The pain forced me to change

I examined my life and realised it wasn’t working for me. I had to find a way to carry on with my life.

Synchronistically, I came across an article in the nursing magazine that would change my life forever. It explained how frontline workers, first responders, nurses and those in caring professions are very likely to be affected by Vicarious Trauma. When I compared my symptoms, I realised that I was suffering from undiagnosed Vicarious Trauma. I knew I needed to change. I set out on a journey to find a solution to overcome it and find a balance that works for me, while still enjoying my job.

To help others like me I’ve developed a practical strategy to RESHAPE your life and move through Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma.

If you’d like to RESHAPE your life contact me for a FREE 30 min discovery call to see how I can help you.