Asian woman talking to a colleague at work.

Imagine bringing a pack of chocolates to school. You give one to each of your friends, but the rest of your classmates want a piece, too. You comply until you run out of candy for yourself. This is the picture of compassion fatigue, a condition that chips away at empathy, leading to mental exhaustion.

Do-gooders often find themselves in this predicament. On top of managing their personal lives, they bear the responsibility of helping colleagues while having too much work on their plate. If you can relate, you might notice your patience wearing thin day by day. 

Don’t feel bad about it! It might be a sign to focus on yourself again. Keep reading to learn about the different triggers of compassion fatigue and what you can do when you get tired of being nice.

Signs and Causes of Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue doesn’t happen overnight. It builds up when you overwork and take on the mental baggage of others. In most cases, it’s an occupational hazard for professionals who are constantly in high-stress situations.

According to the , 70% of people who work in healthcare experience physical and emotional distress to some degree. Indirect exposure to trauma, along with constant pressure to be polite and nice, spark frustrations that can continue at home.

is another component of compassion fatigue. When you’re overwhelmed at the office, it’s easy to be dissatisfied with your performance. The accumulation of self-doubt and undermine your capacity to be compassionate toward others and yourself.

The syndrome can manifest as mood swings. Some people even mistake it for PMS. Check to see if you have shown these signs of dried-up empathy:

  • Feeling detached when hearing other people’s stories
  • Easily angered
  • Trouble sleeping or staying asleep
  • Hardly focused at work
  • Lack of energy to engage with family and friends
  • Dreading to go to work

Coping Techniques to Prevent Compassion Fatigue

Listening to your co-workers vent or clients complain can be draining, but feeling this way doesn’t make you a bad listener. When your empathy “battery” is running low, here are some tricks to recharge and get yourself back in charge.

Know your limits.

You’re not a superhero who can solve everyone’s problems. No one is. Accept that some things are out of your hands and focus only on what you can control. Most importantly, learn to say no when asked for something that’s not within your scope of work. For example, if your manager asks to have a meeting during off-hours, decline and reschedule it for the next day.

Don’t stop there! Plant your break time and stick to it. That means no more speed-eating your lunch in front of the computer. Setting boundaries is a healthy practice to help you achieve .

Establish a self-care routine.

As Selena Gomes sings, you have every right to a beautiful life. You have the prerogative to choose yourself before helping others. Before you run out of fuel, replenish your tank by doing a .

When at work, take your breaks outside to enjoy the scenery. Walking around the office can also help clear your mind instantly. In addition, a  recommends light stretches to reduce fatigue and improve work performance. If you’re a visual learner, decorate your space with trinkets and get creative with to display your personality.

Once you’re at home, take the time to relax and look after your three primary needs: , , and play. as long as you meet your physical and emotional needs. Think small actions you can immediately do to make you happy. Fancy a 10-minute nap? How about a to boost your mood while washing the dishes? Your choice!

Self-care includes being on top of your oral health. Keep your mouth and teeth in good shape with closeup All Around Fresh Cool Mint Toothpaste. It contains fluoride, zinc antibacterial mouthwash, and deep-cleaning silica for plaque-free teeth. Your mouth will stay fresh even after a late-night talk.

Cultivate healthy relationships.

We don’t just mean reaching out to your inner circle. Research finds that people who experience compassion fatigue also struggle with . And when insecurity overrides your better judgment, you tend to push people away to protect yourself from negativity. Staying isolated, however, amplifies negative self-talk and takes a toll on your mental health.

Try to connect with your family and friends outside work no matter how busy you are. It might be daunting initially, but it will help you unwind and focus on things that matter.

Pour your feelings out in a journal.

Not comfortable talking about work problems with other people? You can still confess your struggles without fear of being judged by writing them down in a journal. Researchers believe that journaling can improve self-resilience and help people overcome trauma. It’s also an easy to do every day.

Try these writing prompts to help you process all the emotions:

  • What strong feelings did I face today?
  • Why did I feel that way?
  • What is holding me back from addressing my feelings?
  • What could I have done differently in today’s encounters?
  • What am I grateful for today?

Compassion fatigue is a temporary setback. You’re not broken or dead inside. When this happens, it’s okay to hit pause because you matter just as much as everyone else. However, don't let this keep you from being your generous self again – just remember to keep some kindness for yourself.