When Self Care Isn’t Enough….

Does it seem like you have more difficulty being fulfilled in your professional life than other people do?


As if everyone around you is breezing through their work with ease?

You begin to wonder what’s wrong with you and think, “Am I in the right career? Did I make a mistake?”


You may wonder how to keep going in your career when you’re feeling overwhelmed, irritable and disconnected from your work?


This is compounded for individuals in helping professions such as healthcare or teaching. Many times, we start our career with high hopes of making a difference for individuals and humanity as a whole. We start with so much to learn with so much enthusiasm. Then, we realize there are situations we can’t change and there are things we can’t do anything about.


This is true for health care professionals where there may not be a cure or way to fix a client’s issue. This is true for teachers who watch children show up to school with problems at home they can’t solve. Additionally, therapists can have this same difficulty. We have to learn to navigate these difficulties in order to stay in our field.


At some point we start feeling the negative aspects of helping. The negative aspects of helping are referred to as compassion fatigue, which can lead to burnout. This can consist of feelings of hopelessness and difficulty effectively providing care. The onset of compassion fatigue and burnout often build up over time. Individuals struggling with these issues may feel like their efforts to help make no difference. This can be a result of a high work load or a non-supportive work environment or a combination of related factors.


What’s the answer? The truth is that self-care isn’t always enough. We take time off and go back to the same issues.  We can change our roles and who we see, but there’s still something missing. There are two things to be aware of that extends beyond self-care: compassion satisfaction and addressing secondary trauma.


Compassion satisfaction is the one thing that mitigates work stress and compassion fatigue to prevent or reduce feelings of burnout. Compassion satisfaction is the satisfaction we get from the positive aspects of our jobs. These can include seeing patients improve or seeing students do well. There are those moments where we get to be a part of positive change in the lives of the people we work with. Others find teaching and supervision rewarding. We need to shift our focus to these positive experiences.


Secondary trauma is experienced through vicarious trauma. This is when trauma Is experienced as part of our jobs. This could be witnessing a patient’s death, hearing about their story or seeing children abused. We are typically great at dealing with these most of the time because they’re a regular part of our workday. But, there is typically 1-2 cases that we struggle to deal with at some point in our career. We need to realize this is normal and we need to reach out for treatment. Secondary trauma can happen from a single incident or through exposure to these situations over a period of time.  The good news is, there’s treatment available for this and it can be addressed by professionals.


Are you wondering how to determine if you’re experiencing burnout or secondary trauma? This assessment helps us identify which area that we’re struggling with. https://proqol.org/uploads/ProQOL_5_English_Self-Score.pdf


After taking the assessment you may be looking for some practical steps.


1.     Work towards identifying the most stressful aspects of your job. Determine if you can delegate some of those things or make changes to decrease the stress of these aspects.

2.     Identify the satisfaction you get from your profession. Take time to review the positive stories you’ve heard and times when helping made a difference.

3.     Be realistic of when you need to reach out for professional help.

4.     Understand that you’re human and you need time to grieve losses you’ve experienced professionally.

5.     Spend time each day or week focusing on the satisfaction you get from your job.


I specialize in working with individuals in high stress occupations who struggle with determining whether their current job or career is a good fit. I help people work through the difficult aspects of their job so they can continue doing what they love. Reach out today! 512-256-4929