Preventing Burnout and Compassion Fatigue
by Beka Disney.
It’s a bright sunny day. The air is fresh and clean. Life is good, right? Not if you’re feeling burnout or compassion fatigue. Being a caregiver to children can be exhausting. Burnout symptoms usually start small, but almost always increase if not addressed.
Where are you physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually? Have you noticed any of the following?
1. Chronic Fatigue: Do you continually feel exhausted after a full night’s sleep or a relaxing weekend? If you feel like you don’t have enough energy, pay attention.
2. Physical distress: Are you fighting a constant cold, tummy troubles, nagging physical ailments, weight fluctuations, or loss of desire to exercise? Your body might be telling you that your immune system is down. Take note.
3. Diminished drive: Is your motivation missing? We often start out excited to impact families, be a positive influence, and really make a difference. But if you feel like you are just going through the motions, slow down and listen.
4. Depression or anxiety: Are you struggling with these telltale signs of burnout? Anger can also accompany these symptoms. If your patience starts to run thin and there are no other life factors at play, it’s probably time to notice.
5. Emotional detachment and isolation: Have you observed that you are becoming emotionally disconnected and are pulling away from family and friends? It’s probably time for an emotional checkup.
If you find yourself continually fighting any of these symptoms, you might be experiencing burnout or compassion fatigue. If you don’t take care of yourself, others will not know to take care of you.
Here are some ways to help you find the rest you need and reconnect with the life you’ve worked hard to build:
1. Connect with friends: When you are with children all day, it is important to have adult interaction. Plan a regular Girls Night Out or schedule play dates with other nannies. Don’t isolate.
2. Take small breaks: This can be difficult during the day. But take advantage of those moments when you can make yourself a cup of tea and relax for a minute. Allow yourself to breathe before jumping back into the fray.
3. Go outside: Inhale the fresh air. Take in the sunshine. Your nanny children can also release some of their boundless energy.
4. Eat healthy: Not only will you feel and look better, but there’s a soul-healing component to eating good, non-processed food. Eat with family or friends. Laugh, share stories.
5. Meditate: Combine this with a break during the day, right before bed, or first thing in the morning. Set your phone or watch to remind you to practice deep breathing a few times a day. It will surprise you how much just a few minutes will relieve stress and tension.
6. Exercise regularly: When the body is tired, it can be daunting to think of working out. However, a brisk walk or running with your nanny children, a dance break with your babies, or a fun activity with your older kids are easy ways to add exercise back into your life. Model good habits. Over time, the increased oxygen flow will re-energize you.
7. Add houseplants: Plants improve indoor air quality. Pinterest can help determine what plants are best. There is also something very calming about digging in the dirt. If you have the space for a garden or only enough for potted plants, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty once in a while.
8. Stretch everyday: Do yoga, Pilates, or take simple stretch breaks throughout the day.
9. Get enough sleep: Hands down, this will improve your mood, your breathing, your metabolism, your brain function, and general attitude.
10. Laugh: See the fun side of life. Get silly with those sweet children and the friends and family you spend time with. Laughter is good medicine. Find a friend you can count on to keep you in stitches. When you notice yourself getting slightly off-kilter, reach out and laugh your way to relief.
If you find yourself close to, or in the midst of, burnout or compassion fatigue, it’s not too late. Take a few minutes to pamper yourself. Be intentional about the items listed above. Before you know it, you will have your joie de vivre back.