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Compassion Fatigue Within Education

In a world where the public health priorities can change on a daily basis within the context of a global pandemic, it has never been more appropriate to be compassionate and understanding about the needs of those around us, either in a personal context or within the education services you work within.

With that unprecedented level of care, compassion and understanding comes a level of responsibility that can lead to us feeling drained, tired, approaching burnout or struggling ourselves. Compassion fatigue is a condition characterised by emotional and physical exhaustion leading to a diminished ability to empathise, understand or feel compassion for others. This can also be referred to as secondary traumatic stress and is usually prevalent within professions where a lot of support is provided to those experiencing trauma and adversity on a regular basis.

There are warning signs that can be experienced before compassion fatigue sets in and some of these are listed here:

  • feeling exhausted or a build up of exhaustion
  • reduced ability to feel empathy for others
  • feeling angry, irritable, anxious, tired or depressed
  • dread of working with certain children, young people or classes
  • heightened anxiety or irrational fears
  • problems within personal life and relationships away from work

It’s important to try and recognise the warning signs before trying to support yourself or colleagues with potential compassion fatigue. The support mechanisms can include the following:

  • check in with colleagues and get some of your worries or anxieties off your chest
  • take a daily time out and be firm with getting breaks from work
  • be reflective and write down your feelings to try and manage the stress or triggers
  • set boundaries in your education setting, including a realistic workload

These lists featuring warning signs or support mechanisms are not exhaustive, however it is important to note that if you are feeling like this, it is a perfectly normal response to the pressures and stress involved as a teacher or a wider education staff member during such unprecedented times.

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