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I appreciate the term “Compassion fatigue.”It seems like most of us are finding strength to press on, but are weary in doing so. Two scriptures have often helped me press on in the past. “Do not grow weary in doing good for in due time you shall reap a harvest” and also, “come to me all you who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn form me for me yoke is easy and my burden is light.” That being said, something happened at the nursing home over time where my energy to minister slowly waned as Rick said in his article:
“Loss of interest in clients”
Helping hundreds of residents, families and staffs through the death and dying process with people I had developed relationships with just wore me down. I found myself not quite dreading the new residents and their families, but wondering How can I do this again and again. I still carry some traumatic memories from my CPE experience esp in the ED with one child who died from swallowing a bead. Those one shot trauma experiences also build over time. I empathize with those of you who work solo or almost solo. I had a supportive CPE group at the hospital where we were able to process and support each other difficult visits. Not so much at the nursing home. I learned somewhere to pat my self on the back, to talk over my daily successes at the nursing home with the Lord ( I envisioned high fines and fist bumps from Jesus.) It helped me to energize and keep going. It was good self care, but eventually I just had to put the building, maintaining, losing and starting relationships over on a back burner. I sought the residents out less and less. My long drive didn’t help. When the Hospice position opened nearer my home, I jumped at the chance. But now as I go from being an established chaplain to the new guy who has to learn the Hospice charting system and minister to everyone at end of life I am wondering what did I get myself into. I appreciate being able to share that with this group. The needs will always exceed my ability to meet all of them. In these early stages I am starting new and afresh, yet not with the same energy and enthusiasm of my younger days. I like to hike mountains with fire towers on them for recreation and self care. I need to approach this new opportunity with the same mindset as when I hike. It is not a race. I can’t do it all at once. I need to pace my self and enjoy the journey. I’ve noticed that most of my colleagues eat at their desks. I am committed to stopping andeating in the lunch room or outside. I will sometimes take a walk at lunch time. Deep breathing is always helpful. Spring is coming, the sunshine and flowers are helpful. Singing (badly) by myself is helpful. Trying to stay positive is helpful. The benefit of both articles is that one needs to recognize compassion fatigue or burn out is happening, think about why and take some small steps to correct it if you can. How to be nice to our selves.. Rick also mentioned negative self talk. We often talk to ourselves in ways we would never talk to anyone else. “I’m so stupid.” “That was a dumb thing to say.” We are children of God, a king. we are royalty, princesses and princes. sons and daughters of the King. We are created in God’s image, to love, to care, to create, to rest.
Thanks for listening.