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Compassion Fatigue in a Pandemic

Updated: Jun 30, 2021

“Lockdown and the pandemic have clearly shaken the mental health of the caring sector, particularly in education.” Anni Poole talking to school leaders and teachers about wellbeing.

Blown Away. Sculpture by Penny Hardy

Working in education or in most caring roles, appears to bring a sense of life feeling pressured, and speeding up.

When this happens, we immediately fall into the stress trap. The space of muddling on in confusion and increased overwhelm, with a large measure of sheer fatigue.

I can often hear the faint victory cries along corridors and from under desks or in darkened rooms . . .


What is really happening?

Pushing through the pain barrier of exhaustion appears to be a designated trait of teachers and carers per se, it is almost a trophy trait. Teachers, leaders, and carers can feel a great need to fix, rescue, and to constantly say yes to requests. Their compassion is admirable and also exhausting.

This results in overthinking and a feeling sense of being overwhelmed.

Dr Aaron Turner, Founder of One Thought, London, says:

“When people have an unclear mind, overloaded with stress and pressure – there is fatigue and burden to every minute worked. In addition to this, people tend to think about work in a ‘sped-up’ state of mind outside of working hours.

We tend to overlook the fact that the impact of longer working hours will depend more on the state of mind we are working in. “

What are the contributing factors to our feelings of exhaustion? Aaron Turner clearly says there is A FATIGUE AND BURDEN TO EVERY MINUTE WORKED. Exacerbated by:

· Our inability to let go and step back for a break.

· The surge of guilt we experience if work does not come first.

· The overwhelming desire to push through to get ‘it’ done.

· Not tuning into, even ignoring, the perfect alarm system we have – our own body.

Are you overthinking? Does life feel full on? How do you know?

· Sleep may be illusive, erratic and often disturbed.

· Physical health begins to deteriorate.

· Emotional health disintegrates.

· Relationships’ struggle.

· New ideas and creativity suffer.

· Problems appear to be insurmountable.

The Good News!

We can begin to understand how to recover and alter this tired state of mind in this moment NOW.

Avoid anything that supports your speeded up thinking in the next ten minutes because this increases the THOUGHT traffic from single country lane speed to 5 lane fast highway, thought traffic.

Allow yourself to focus on one thing only, one thing at a time, letting go of anything else until you complete (or let go of) that one thing.

Create least detail when planning. Too much planning ahead, at work or when home robs you of being present in the now.

A sense of satisfaction is readily achieved when you slow down and allow your mind to settle. If you are always looking to the future, you will experience a state of unfinished business. You cannot possibly finish things because the ‘to do’ list is longer than daylight, always tomorrow or far ahead of time, and ahead of you. There is a sense of being incomplete, of frustration and loss.

Our state of mind is defined by us, through our thought feeling experiences. When thoughts are fast, we feel chaotic, tired, and confused.

By stepping away, taking thought breaks, and slowing down it really does allow thoughts to settle.

A slower state of mind determines how clearly, we think, and supports our ability to step back, take a break. This simple approach increases our ability be creative, solve problems, have great relationships, more ease in our day and we can sleep easily.

All through slowing down and taking a 5, 10, 30 second or even a 5-minute break from our own thinking!

Dr Bill Pettit 1o minute video clip

“The only cause of anxiety is the innocent misuse of, and lack of understanding of the gift of thought.”

Anni Poole is Director of HLS Impact Coaching for leaders and Schools @AnniPoole

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