Stages of Helping Fatigue: Failure and Crisis
Posted on March 31, 2017
We have hit the low point of our journey. Failure and crisis is the final devastating stage of helping fatigue. Here, the trauma and stress associated with our work dramatically decreases our ability to get satisfaction from our work, and from life more generally. Besides impacting our work, we are also at high risk of negatively impacting our physical, social, and mental health. Here is a list of potential negative outcomes associated with burnout, compassion fatigue, secondary trauma, and vicarious trauma.
As I like to say in my training, “This is not the price you should pay for dedicating your life to the service of others.” While I believe this statement with all my heart, I also hear stories of marriages breaking up because of work stress, people not being the best parent, partner, or spouse they could be. In other words, this is the price so many of us are paying by neglecting our own self-care.
Besides the personal, relational, and health costs associated with helping fatigue, there is a career cost as well. When our cups are full, we are not our best selves. We say things to clients and co-workers we would have never say if we were in a better state. We become unproductive and inefficient in our work. We might cross professional boundaries and even do harm in our work with clients. We are left in a miserable state where are clients do not want to work with us, our co-workers become frustrated, and performance hits the point where people lose their jobs.
When I talked about the importance of catching helping fatigue in the initial stages, avoiding failure and crisis is a critical reason for acting early and powerfully. The less we focus on self-care, the higher the risks of experiencing the negative consequences listed above. This is not the price you should pay for dedicating your life to the services of others.
We have completed our journey through the stages of helping fatigue. From exhaustion to shame and doubt to cynicism and callousness and finally to failure, we have seen how destructive compassion fatigue, secondary trauma, vicarious trauma, and burnout can be if not addressed. In the coming weeks, we will examine strategies to protect both ourselves and others from the negative effects of helping fatigue to help maximize our performance and effectiveness.
I want to open the comment section to any thoughts or questions you might have on the stages of helping fatigue.