How to Handle the Cost of Compassion Fatigue
Hurricanes took huge tolls on families in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Fires swept through Northern California totally destroying 8,000 structures and taking 51 lives. My financial advisor and two clients lost everything. We discovered major electrical damage and potential fire in our house, resulting in a stunningly expensive need to rewire over two-thirds of our house. My best friend buried her husband of 64 years and within five months, also buried her 17 year-old grandson. Opioid addictions kill thousands and within a month after the massacre in Las Vegas, 300 more people in the U.S. are dead from guns.
Are we exhausted yet? I believe so. In fact, Dr. Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas in San Antonio and an expert on the connection between media consumption and stress calls it “compassion fatigue”. The steady 24-7 barrage of bad news is resulting in anxiety, lack of sleep, angry conversations and yes, depression. That’s a costly price to pay. And just like pulling money out of the bank, we all need to learn how to put “money” back in and regain some modicum of optimism and peace. Here are some tips:
Restrict your flow of news, alerts, and text messages. As someone who starts the day with two newspapers and my phone, this is the hardest thing to do. On a smart phone, you can set time boundaries in which you receive no text calls except for emergencies from family members.
Begin each day with at least 10 minutes of silence and meditation. I have found an app called Insight Timer. While there are guided meditations, I prefer just the single clear sound of a basu bowl. Set it for 10 minutes (or longer) and just sit still and breathe. There is also a list of music that is calming.
Take a break with uplifting and/or fun videos. Upworthy always has small videos of everything from light-hearted fun to uplifting stories. Cute Emergency is a stream of memes and videos all about animals.
Determine which causes most touch your heart. Every day I get requests for everything from Mercy Ships to the Red Cross—and always with pictures that break your heart. I have found two organizations that I have researched and that support children and families. These I pay attention to. The rest I discard.
Spend time with loved ones. And that does not mean sitting around the dinner table with everyone on their phones. Put the phones AWAY! Begin a practice of asking everyone for one happy moment or something that struck them as funny. It’s a great practice that can rewire your brain from the negative connections to positive ones.
End each day with gratitude. When I hear myself stressing over the cost of all manner of home emergencies, I must stop and remind myself, at least I do have a home. And yes, I will donate to the cities devastated by all these natural disasters.
So, take care of yourself first. You are the only one who really can!