Out of GasIrritable. Withdrawn. Moody. Exhausted to the bone.

These are just a few of the signs you or someone you care about might be suffering from compassion fatigue or secondary or vicarious trauma. It’s a tough, lonely place to be, and because of the way trauma affects the brain, it can be hard for people to find their way out. It puts a strain on relationships and can change how you think and feel about yourself, others, and the world around you. Physical health is often affected, and it is not uncommon for mental health concerns to also develop, such as depression, anxiety, and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

If you are regularly exposed to suffering, you are at risk. Some examples:

Clergy, first responders, therapists, parents and caregivers of children who have experienced trauma, CASA advocates, veterinarians, caregivers, lawyers, judges, medical personnel, animal welfare workers, hospice workers, missionaries, and humanitarian workers.

So, what can be done? What if you are suffering and want help, but don’t know where to start?

There are many options for finding relief and even long-term healing and recovery. It often begins with learning to make some shifts in your life. Sometimes this can be relatively simple, but, more often, it can be difficult and require a commitment and readiness to make some changes.

Here are a few ideas to try if you are struggling. If your compassion fatigue or secondary or vicarious trauma is moderate to severe, it may also be helpful to find additional support and help.

  • Play – become absorbed in relaxing, enjoyable activities which help you lose your sense of time
  • Create – become involved with something creative – woodworking, music, photography, art, dance, cooking, etc. You can be active in creating something, or passively take it in (e.g., listening to music)
  • Simplify – consider small ways to let go of or reduce some stresses and responsibilities in order to simplify one or two areas of your life
  • Rest – even when there is still work to do, find ways to stop and rest; our minds and bodies are not meant to go without adequate rest
  • Move your body – walking and yoga can be especially helpful
  • Spend time outside – sit on your porch, open your window, rest at a park, go for a hike.
  • Stay in the present – spend some time trying to stay in the present with whatever you’re doing. Finding something which naturally engages you can help if you are having difficulty with this (e.g., looking at art, watching a sunset, reading, watching animals, looking at a flower close-up; watching children play; people-watching)
  • Connect with others – resist letting yourself get too isolated from people, especially if you tend to struggle with depression
  • Laugh – there is good reason behind the saying “laughter is the best medicine”; it can provide a myriad of healthy, helpful benefits
  • Breathe – learn how to breathe deeply, from your diaphragm, like babies and children do naturally when asleep; this sends calming signals to your brain

If you live or work in the Texas Hill Country or greater Austin area, here’s a wonderful upcoming event…..

“Transforming Trauma” workshop coming to Marble Falls on Friday, September 25th.

Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, founder of Trauma Stewardship Institute, will be sharing her ground-breaking ideas for managing secondary trauma and finding better, healthier ways to live and work. Thanks to the Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center and Patti Hethershaw of Perpetual Resonance, this workshop is being offered at a very reasonable cost. I hope to see you there!

For more information or to register: http://www.hccac.org/transforming-trauma/