Are you a nurse with compassion fatigue? Here’s what your heart is aching to tell you.

The Struggle: Dodge the Lawsuit.

What does your day as a nurse consist of lately? Paperwork, sacrifice and skipped lunch breaks? Ringing phones and chronic staff shortages? Paperwork. Damage control. More paperwork.    

It’s almost like we’re playing “dodge the lawsuit” daily. We’re so far removed from the primary function of a nurse – caring for our patients. 

We imagine we’d get time to talk to our patients, get to know them, form a trusting relationship and care for them. We hope to make a difference in their life through human connection…but this is not what you actually experience. The patients come and go, in and out, and you only have time for the necessities. Some patients pass through and you don’t even have the time to catch their name or make eye contact.

The painful result: Nurses with Compassion Fatigue

You eventually feel so much pain, suffering and dissatisfaction from your work, you burn out and feel more and more separated from your patients. A sensation of numbness, apathy, isolation, and anger or hostility is commonly experienced by nurses and other caregivers. In some cases it can lead to addictions and the abuse of drugs and alcohol. This experience is “secondary traumatic stress disorder” aka “compassion fatigue”. 

If you are a nurse with compassion fatigue, you might question your own morality or feel like you’re a cruel person but the truth is, you are actually extremely caring and devoted to your patients, so much so that you are neglecting yourself and failing to practice self-care. 

Michael J. Stoltzfus, author of the book, “Chronic Illness, Spirituality, and Healing: Diverse Disciplinary, Religious, and Cultural Perspectives.” – defines compassion fatigue as “self-critical and doubtful thoughts that lead to psychosomatic illness”.

In simpler words, self care vs self criticism is key to excelling in the caring profession… 

In fact, the Clinical Application of Compassion in Nursing needs to be at the forefront of our profession. 

The basic need for compassion.

The Dalai Lama addresses compassion as the way to happiness, joy and renewal in all of his teachings. 

Many nurses who have taken our training, describe compassion fatigue and the fear of losing compassion as a critical concern. In light of this, we teach the YogaNurse® Sacred Remedy which is the heart of helping nurses to stay compassionate, cared for and energized in a career that demands far too much of us. 

Giving yourself some compassion and care will afford you the strength to continue to care for your patients in a way that makes you feel like you’re living your life’s purpose.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion - Dalai Lama
The Clinical Application of Compassion in Nursing is Key.

The solution? Easy steps towards self compassion:

Be kind to yourself and forgiving. 

Enhance your awareness with yoga, meditation and spirituality.

Accept where you are on your path at all times – yoga is known to help you reach this point of acceptance and understanding the difference between knowing what you can control and accepting what you cannot. 

Understand that those close to you may not be there when you need them most. This is okay, you will learn to be there for yourself, within yourself, present and connect with your higher self.

Exchange information and feelings with people who can validate you. The YogaNurse private Facebook group is a good place to start. Full of wonderful and supportive nurses who are actively discussing this very thing. You can join if you’ve taken one of our courses.

Listen to others who are suffering. It will help you understand that you are human and your feelings are normal.

Clarify your personal boundaries. What works for you; what doesn’t.

Express your needs verbally. It helps to talk about your needs and express it out loud. It will help others align with you better and you will have an easier time.

Take positive action to change your environment. If you cannot do much to change your outer world, then start from the inside…take a sacred breathe. Learn to “be still “ with meditation. 

A gentle approach to yourself, dear one, is a necessity. 

This is the kind of lesson nursing school does not teach. Yet, it is an ESSENTIAL part of our needs as a nurse. You are a human being and you need to fill your cup. This is what we focus on with the YogaNurse® Mission. Filling the gaps that nursing schools couldn’t teach us. We bring balance and self care to nurses, allowing them to continue to offer conscious, compassionate, caring for their patients.

Five Easy Yoga Poses for Nurses with Compassion Fatigue:

1. Lotus Mudra

This mudra grounds you and makes you feel stronger. It is linked to the heart chakra and opens up the path to light from darkness. It can ease loneliness and should be practised when you feel drained, exploited or misunderstood.  Held at your heart, continue to meditate or practice deep breathing.

Lotus Mudra/Padma Mudra for nurse with compassion fatigue

2. Goddess Pose.

Builds inner and outer strength, builds personal empowerment and balance between will and surrender. It is energizing and improves focus and concentration.  Can be done with palms pressed together at your chest or for an easier variation, you can use a chair for added balance and support. Breathe deeply.

Supta Baddha Konasana - Goddess Yoga Pose for nurse with compassion fatigue.

3. Child’s Pose.

Calms the brain and relieves stress and fatigue. Promotes feelings of safety, calm and relaxation. Releases fatigue. Promotes rest. Recharges the body.  Breathe deeply.

Child's Pose for safety, calm, relaxation for nurse with compassion fatigue.

4. Apanasana (Knees to Chest) – seated or lying down.

A pose that brings you into a state of deep relaxation. Reduces excessive anger or anxiety. Rebalances energy. Wind-relieving. Soothes the back and spine.

You can hug your knees or for an easier variation, use your hands underneath your knees/thighs for added support. Remember to breathe.

Apanasana (Knees to Chest) - seated or lying down for nurse with compassion fatigue.

5. Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall).

An immensely restorative pose that encourages blood flow to areas in the body that are in need of it. It calms and relieves anxiety and depression. It will also promote peaceful sleep. You may use a cushion under your torso if it helps your comfort level. Another variation is to rest your legs on the seat of a chair instead of against a wall, upright. Choose what works best for you and again…remember to breathe.

Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall) Yoga Pose for nurse with compassion fatigue

Know the power of meditation.

Do not underestimate the power of meditation. You can use some gentle music, or the sounds of nature, or repeat a mantra such as this one: 

This is a moment of suffering. 

Suffering is a part of life. 

May I be kind to myself in this moment.  

May I give myself the compassion I need.

A Guided Meditation: For a Nurse with Compassion Fatigue

Allow yourself 6 minutes to listen and follow along with this guided meditation I made especially for nurses who are struggling with compassion fatigue or painful self-criticism. Trust that this will help you feel stronger each time you do it. Get into a comfortable seated position or lie down comfortably. Close your eyes and listen along. Be open to self care and self love. 

If you feel inclined to do so, continue to meditate after this recording ends and repeat phrases in your mind that move you away from judgement into caring, from apathy to understanding, and from isolation to connection and spirit.  

If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Jack Kornfield.

Loving yourself is healing the world.” – Jaymie Gerard.

This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is a part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment.  May I give myself the compassion I need.

Gratitude to you dear one, 

May you be happy 🙂

May you be at peace

May you be free from sorrow 💛

Do remember to reach out if you are in despair. I am here to listen.

Annette Tersigni

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