What happens when compassion takes over your life

If you work in a caregiving industry or you’re a healthcare professional, you know that we are well-qualified and conditioned to be compassionate — the carers of all others. But what happens when showing constant compassion becomes overwhelming?

From a young age we are taught to look after our younger siblings and elders. To care for our children, spouses and aging relatives. In our busy modern lives, we juggle work, family, and daily commitments — rarely giving ourselves much thought or time for self-love. We feel guilty putting ourselves first.

Some of us choose compassion as a career. It feels so fulfilling to be able to care for others and give them your absolute best. But what happens when compassion takes over your life? Our body, mind and souls become exhausted. We can feel emotionally, physically, and mentally fatigued, until one day we can’t carry on any longer and get burnt out. That’s what happened to me a few years ago.

Twenty-five years ago I chose to start a nursing career out of a deep feeling of desire to help others. Working in the emergency operating theatres put me on the frontline, seeing and feeling the traumatic experiences of others.

“In compassion, when we feel with the other, we dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and we put another person there.” ~ Karen Armstrong

Research shows us that between forty to eighty-five percent of helping professionals develop compassion fatigue, but only fifteen percent of those affected were willing to seek personal counselling.

So, why are we not getting help?

For too long we’ve been taught that we can handle this — because we’ve been trained for it. And that’s why we are not asking for help, suffering in silence, afraid to admit the struggle. We don’t want to be seen as weak. 

Sometimes we don’t even realise how it affect us because compassion fatigue creeps in slowly. The suffering and traumatic experiences of others affects us on a daily basis as a caring professional. We take it home, feeling tired, frustrated, and irritable. It becomes a struggle to give compassion to our loved ones.

As an Operating Theatre Nurse who has worked internationally for over 25 years, I know how much each person who works in a caring profession can be affected without even realising it. 

I absolutely love my job— the adrenaline rush, dealing with emergencies and helping to save lives. As part of my job, I experience a lot of traumatic events. Some stick in my mind much longer than others, and it’s those moments and events that drain the energy and enthusiasm in all caring professions including frontline and healthcare workers. 

Traumatic events affect us in more ways than we realise, so if your behaviour changes, take notice! If you suddenly want to call in sick when you’re not ill, but stay in bed all day, this is a sign to become more conscious and recognise that all is not well.

Without the consistent daily practice self-care regime that I teach and have in place for myself as a healthcare professional, I would again struggle to maintain my caring compassionate nature for each patient.

Have you noticed any changes in your behaviour towards others or do you feel like you have lost your joy? Find out how to rediscover yourself with my RESHAPE program, and regain happiness, joy and increase your level of job satisfaction again.