Compassion: How to Keep It Going

Have you ever stopped in your tracks and wondered if you’ve started caring less if a patient gets better or not? Did it frighten you? How did you cope when you suspect that the kindness in you has slowly drained?

If you find yourself going into this regrettable situation, it’s not too late to go back and reestablish the same passion you had for caregiving.

To help you assess your situation, let us talk about what compassion is all about.

Compassion is showing concern for the suffering of others. It is putting yourself in others' shoes and understanding their feelings. It fuels your desire to help and makes you jump into action. Compassion gives meaning to patient care as it revolves around preserving the human connection.

You’d know you are low on kindheartedness when:

1. The pain and suffering of your patients has started to lose their effect on you.

You start caring less about whatever is happening to your patients. Worsening condition does not move you to spring into action.

2. You are more concerned with your tasks rather than the person.

Work becomes all about ticking all the boxes on your to-do list and getting that paycheck to pay your bills. You interact less with your patients. You hold back and avoid meaningful conversation.

3. All you can think about is how tired you are.

You are preoccupied with your complaints and then tell yourself that patients can wait. When the job as a caregiver is more about you than it is about them, it's a sign that you are losing interest in your patients’ wellbeing.

4. You start to question why you are into caregiving.

When you feel like giving up, it means that challenges have already outweighed your desire to help. Consequently, you try to hang on, but you don't feel like your experience is rewarding. You also tend to become irritable, angry and frustrated when you see patients suffering more because of their condition.

If you already see yourself in this situation, you have to take a moment and think carefully about how you reached this point. When did this all start?

The loss of compassion usually happens unintentionally. At first, you may just want to cope with emotionally draining situations such as a patient’s death. So you teach yourself to feel numb repeatedly until eventually, you cannot go back to feeling emotional pain.

There's also this need to toughen up and disconnect from the agony of losing patients.

Sometimes it's also about surviving the toxic pressure from co-workers and the management.

Before you know it, you have built a thick wall around yourself that also made you cold and uncaring. And determining when to stop to keep your fire burning can be tricky.

Here are some things that you can do to keep your compassion going:

1. Empathize instead of sympathizing.

Empathizing is about understanding what another person feels while sympathizing is feeling the same as another.

When you become a caregiver, you may sometimes find yourself becoming very close to a patient. Perhaps you see in them your mom or the sister you never had. You tend to be too emotionally invested.

The result of being too close to a patient is that when they turn for the worse or pass, you grieve like you are part of the family. The loss is unbearable and exceedingly painful. And like anyone who lost a loved one, you feel depressed and unable to function as well.

The best way to avoid such an experience is to show empathy instead. Care to understand rather than feeling with your patients. With this said, the second tip below now comes in handy.

2. Set boundaries.

To be an effective caregiver, you must set healthy boundaries. You can do this by knowing how much is too much and stopping yourself from getting too involved.

3. Take care of yourself.

Stress and burnout are common reasons why caregivers lose compassion. When you stop showing concern for others because of stress, everything becomes a real struggle. To avoid burnout, find ways to relax and unwind. Be with happy people. Seek the support of your co-workers, family, and friends. Eat right and sleep right.

Compassion fatigue is already the end of the tunnel. Do everything you can to avoid reaching this point. To go back to feeling again is quite difficult because it means that you must break the walls you built thickly around yourself. Keep the light lit inside. For what meaning is left in caring when you lose the one thing that sets caregiving apart from other jobs, that which is compassion.