Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue

Physical Symptoms

  • I have had increased absenteeism “sick days”
  • I have been feeling physically ill
  • I have been feeling fatigued
  • I have been feeling keyed up & nervous
  • I am doing less rather than more exercise
  • Normal sleep has been more difficult for me
  • I have lost enjoyment in intimate and sexual activities

Psychological Symptoms

  • I have noticed myself being more cynical and pessimistic
  • I noticed that I was trying to avoid feelings by numbing or shutting down
  • I have had work related nightmares/bad dreams
  • I have lost interest and enjoyment in activities
  • I have difficulty in making decisions or am making poor decisions
  • I feel like I have lost some of my self esteem

Emotional Symptoms

  • I have anger directed towards my supervisors or co-workers
  • I have been feeling flat, depressed and hopeless more than I used to
  • I have been more angry and irritable than normal
  • I have moments of dread when thinking about going to work
  • I am having trouble finding hope
  • I am less connected to my spiritual and religious beliefs than I used to be
  • I have felt overwhelmed more than three times the past week

Spiritual Symptoms

  • I have been avoiding spending time with my friends and family
  • I have been avoiding spending time with God
  • I fear for the safety of myself and my loved ones
  • I have engaged less rather than more in activities that used to bring me pleasure
  • I have had a lack of time for self
  • I find it difficult to trust others
  • I have feelings of despair and hopelessness

Professional Symptoms

  • I have been unable to get work or something specific to work out of my head
  • I have had unwanted memories pop up in my head of past events from work
  • My productivity at work has been reduced
  • I have felt like quitting my job more than once
  • I find paperwork and menial tasks getting in the way of my enjoyment of work

Five or more checked could indicate that you are suffering from compassion fatigue symptoms.

Symptoms of Secondary Traumatic Stress

Intrusive Symptoms

  • Thoughts and images associated with client’s traumatic experiences
  • Obsessive and compulsive desire to help certain clients
  • Client/work issues encroaching upon personal time
  • Inability to let go of work related matters
  • Perception of survivors as fragile and needing the assistance of caregiver (“saviour”)
  • Thoughts and feelings of inadequacy as a caregiver
  • Sense of entitlement or special-ness
  • Perception of the world in terms of victims and perpetrators
  • Personal activities interrupted by work related issues

Avoidance Symptoms

  • Silencing response (avoiding hearing/witnessing client’s traumatic material)
  • Loss of enjoyment in activities/cessation of self care activities
  • Loss of energy
  • Loss of hope/sense of dread working with certain clients
  • Loss of sense of competency/potency
  • Isolation
  • Secretive self medication (alcohol, drugs, work, sex, food, spending etc)
  • Relational dysfunction

Arousal Symptoms

  • Increased anxiety
  • Impulsivity/reactivity
  • Increased perception of demand/threat (both in job and environment)
  • Increased frustration/anger
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Change in weight/appetite
  • Somatic symptoms

Self Care Worksheet

Physical Self Care

  • Aerobic activity; exercise regularly (3x/week)
  • Eat regularly (breakfast, lunch & dinner)
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Preventive medical care
  • Medical care when needed
  • Take time off work when sick
  • Get massages
  • Dance, swim, walk, run, play sports, sing, or other activity you enjoy
  • Take time to be sexual in your marriage
  • Get enough sleep
  • Wear clothes you like
  • Take holidays (mini breaks and longer vacations)

Psychological Self Care

  • Self-regulate at work (pelvic relaxation, peripheral vision, body scan & soften muscles)
  • Self-regulate in personal life (pelvic relaxation, peripheral vision, body scan & soften muscles)
  • Maintain intentionality in work
  • Maintain intentionality in personal life
  • Make time away from demands
  • Write in a journal
  • Read literature that is unrelated to work
  • Do something at which you are not an expert or in charge
  • Let others know different aspects of you
  • Be curious
  • Say no to extra responsibilities
  • Decrease stress in your life

Emotional Self Care

  • Connect with others whose company you enjoy
  • Love yourself
  • Laugh
  • Cry
  • Play with animals
  • Play with children
  • Identify comforting activities, objects, people, places and seek them out
  • Express anger is social action (ie letters to newspapers, donations, marches, gatherings)

Spiritual Self Care

  • Spend time with God
  • Spend time in nature
  • Find spiritual connection or community
  • Cherish optimism and hope
  • Be open to not knowing
  • Sing
  • Pray
  • Spend time with children
  • Be open to inspiration
  • Have gratitude
  • Meditate/pray
  • Listen to music
  • Engage in artistic activity/expression
  • Have experiences of awe
  • Be mindful of what is happening in your body and around you
  • Make meanings from difficult periods
  • Seek truth

Workplace Self Care

  • Take time to eat lunch
  • Take time to connect with co workers
  • Make quiet time to complete tasks
  • Identify projects or tasks that are exciting/rewarding
  • Set limits with clients and colleagues
  • Balance your workload so that you are not overwhelmed
  • Arrange your workspace so that it is comfortable and comforting
  • Get regular supervision and consultation
  • Negotiate for your needs (benefits, pay raise)
  • Have a peer support group